City rail fare hikes to cost com­muters nearly five per cent of their salaries

Rochdale Observer - - YOUR VIEWS - Char­ @ccox­men

GREATER Manch­ester rail com­muters face pay­ing al­most five per cent of their salaries for a sea­son ticket into the city cen­tre af­ter the lat­est fare hikes.

Av­er­age rail prices on so­called ‘reg­u­lated’ fares have gone up 3.4 per cent –the big­gest in­crease since 2013.

It means an an­nual sea­son ticket from Hor­wich Park­way, in Bolton, to Manch­ester city cen­tre now costs £1,156 af­ter the increases came into ef­fect.

The av­er­age full-time salary for peo­ple liv­ing in Bolton is £24,322.

Com­muters from Hor­wich are there­fore spend­ing 4.8 per cent of their av­er­age salary just to get to Manch­ester – the high­est per­cent­age wage pay-out in Greater Manch­ester, ac­cord­ing to ex­clu­sive anal­y­sis by our sis­ter pa­per the M.E.N.

One reg­u­lar trav­eller says she wouldn’t mind the price – if the ex­pe­ri­ence matched up.

Katie Mac­Don­ald’s sea­son ticket to travel daily on North­ern Rail’s ser­vice from Brom­ley Cross in Bolton to Manch­ester Vic­to­ria has leapt from £1,212 to £1,260.

Katie, 40, a con­tract man­ager, added: “It’s no longer a case of stand­ing room only – it’s a case of strug­gling to breathe. If this rise could be jus­ti­fied by the im­prove­ment on the num­ber of car­riages, the qual­ity of ser­vice and get­ting a seat, I could live with it. But there has been no im­prove­ment in the ser­vice.”

Last year com­muters on this line en­dured five weeks of re­place­ment buses while works were car­ried out on a dam­aged bridge.

Al­though the trains are now back, she says their woes con­tinue as car­riages have been slashed from four to two.

“There are now up to 30 peo­ple on ev­ery rush hour ser­vice who can’t fit on a train. It’s got worse.”

Start­ing on Monday there are three days of strike action on North­ern Rail set to take place this week over plans for driver-only trains. Com­muters are so an­gry they have set up a North­ern Fail cam­paign group on Facebook.

Reg­u­lated fares cover most com­muter sea­son tick­ets as well as some in­ter­city jour­neys. The prices rise in line with in­fla­tion. But most wages have not kept pace with in­fla­tion.

This earn­ings data is also be­fore tax. Once tax and Na­tional In­sur­ance are de­ducted, the cost of com­mut­ing will rise more sharply.

An­nual tick­ets from Rochdale to Manch­ester cost 4.7 per cent of the av­er­age salary, Wi­gan North Western and Wi­gan Wall­gate 4.3 per cent and Bolton sta­tion 4.2 per cent.

Sal­ford Cres­cent has the ●●Some Greater Manch­ester com­muters face pay­ing nearly five per cent of their salaries for a sea­son ticket into Manch­ester city cen­tre cheap­est com­mute in Greater Manch­ester once we fac­tored in pay, com­ing in at 1.6 per cent of salaries in Sal­ford.

Across Greater Manch­ester as a whole the av­er­age sea­son ticket takes up about 3.7 per cent of salaries. This fig­ure takes the av­er­age salary for the re­gion of £26,315 per year and a sea­son ticket price of £963, based on the av­er­age cost of tick­ets from sta­tions used by more than 1m pas­sen­gers last year.

John Moor­house of Trav­elWatch North West, said above-in­fla­tion fare rises had been go­ing on for years, adding: “Our con­cern is that we are not see­ing the investment in re­turn for the increases.”

A spokesman for North­ern said they were in the early stages of a wide-rang­ing mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme to transform rail travel across the north.

The first re­fur­bished trains had been de­liv­ered around Manch­ester and sta­tions like Mos­ton and Kears­ley had been im­proved, he said.

He added: “We are work­ing hard on in­creas­ing our train ca­pac­ity through the in­tro­duc­tion of 281 brand new car­riages which were or­dered at the start of the fran­chise and re­main on tar­get to start ar­riv­ing later this year.

“We are also de­liv­er­ing fur­ther im­proved trains, bet­ter sta­tions and more ser­vices to transform lo­cal rail for cur­rent and fu­ture cus­tomers in the north of Eng­land by 2020. Fares are an im­por­tant fac­tor in en­abling the investment that will make this hap­pen and en­sure the rail­way con­tin­ues to sup­port our cus­tomers, com­mu­ni­ties and the re­gional econ­omy.”

A DfT spokesman said: “We are in­vest­ing in the big­gest mod­erni­sa­tion of our rail­ways since the Vic­to­rian times to improve ser­vices for pas­sen­gers – pro­vid­ing faster and bet­ter, more com­fort­able trains with ex­tra seats.

This in­cludes the first trains run­ning though Lon­don on the Cross­rail pro­ject, an en­tirely new Thames­link rail ser­vice and con­tin­u­ing work on the trans­for­ma­tive Great North Rail Pro­ject.

“This is the fifth year in a row where this gov­ern­ment has capped the cost of reg­u­lated fares – like most sea­son tick­ets – in line with in­fla­tion, sav­ing pas­sen­gers money. We keep fare prices un­der con­stant re­view and the price rises for this year are capped in line with in­fla­tion, with more than 97p out of ev­ery £1 paid go­ing back into the rail­way.”

Net­work Rail have been ap­proached for com­ment.

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