Rail fare hike adds insult to injury

The announcement of further rail fare increases in January is an added insult to thousands of High Peak commuters who are already facing overcrowding and delays.

The 2.5% increase will take the price of an annual season ticket from Buxton to Manchester to nearly £3,000, and from New Mills Central to Sheffield to over £2,500. From Glossop the new fare will be more that £1150.

In Glossopdale we also have the absurd situation where it costs nearly £2 more to travel on the 0929 from Hadfield, than to get the same train from Glossop a few minutes later!  Perhaps even more bizarre, given that the cost of an annual season ticket is the same from both stations. I have written to Northern Rail asking them to reduce the fare from Hadfield.

Prices so high should command a decent standard of service, but instead trains in High Peak are sometimes so crowded that one commuter told me:

“We don’t crave the London standards of a table or a plug point or WiFi, or even a seat. We just want to not be breathing in other people’s hair, standing on other people’s feet, getting pressure bruises from awkward standing positions against the bins, or standing four people in the stinking toilet space. Sometimes I’d like to simply be able to get on the train. It’s demoralising watching your train depart without you on a weekly basis because you can’t get on, or having to plan two stops in advance how you’re going to manage to make your exit.”

It’s not a lot to ask, so I have requested that one of Northern Rail’s senior executives accompany me on a commuter journey in High Peak so I can show them the level of discomfort faced by passengers every day they travel to work.

It’s no wonder that the UK’s productivity is lower than most of Europe when we have Europe’s longest commuter times of an average 57 minutes a day.  Even so, many commuters in High Peak would love such a short journey – too many of us are part of the 3.7 million people who travel for over 2 hours a day.

As I pointed out in my speech on the Finance Bill this week, the government needs to concentrate on commuter travel if they really want to tackle productivity.

Instead, the Budget offered very little for rail in the north of England.  In High Peak we have not even seen a decision yet on the short areas of dual track on the Hope Valley line that will enable more freight and passenger trains to run between Manchester and Sheffield, in spite of the final consultation finishing over a year ago.

The proportionate benefits to cost for this work are unarguable and I have written again to the Secretary of State for Transport to press for the decision to be made as soon as possible.

Do let me know your experience of travelling on High Peak trains.  I will continue to press for commuters’ concerns to be taken seriously by our private rail companies and a government that does not seem interested in commuter journeys.