Rail users hit by new ‘evening peak’ charges

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Yorkshire rail passengers will be hit by hikes of up to 77 per cent in the cost of their journey today (Monday) despite a decision by George Osborne to limit annual fare rises.

The Chancellor promised to limit the January rise in regulated fares - which covers season tickets and off peak intercity journeys - to 2.5 per cent, matching the inflation rate.

They had been due to rise by 3.5 per cent.

But that will come as little comfort to rail passengers on dozens of routes in Yorkshire who, from today, will no longer be able to use off-peak tickets to travel in the evening rush hour.

Figures released by Labour show the cost of a return ticket from Todmorden to Huddersfield involving travel in the new ‘evening peak’ period will rise from £6.60 to £11.70, an increase of 77 per cent.

A similar return ticket from Ikley to Leeds will go up 39 per cent to £8.20 and between Barnsley and Meadowhall the cost will rise 26 per cent to £5.90.

Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh said: “People shouldn’t have to choose between paying more or waiting hours on a platform and missing tea with their family.

“Labour would tackle the cost-of-living crisis by enforcing a strict cap on fare rises and reforming our railways for passengers, not profit.”

The Campaign for Better Transport said the new evening peak charges will be particular damaging for part-time workers who tend not to travel enough to make a season ticket worthwhile.

Martin Abrams, from the Campaign, said: “Rather than introducing evening peak tickets, the Department for Transport and Northern Rail should focus on investing in services and making Northern Rail more attractive to potential passengers.”

The introduction of ‘evening peak’ fares is part of a deal between the Government and Northern Rail to extend its franchise running local services in the region until 2016.

Northern Rail was asked to come up with ideas to help reduce the amount the Government has to pay in subsidies.

It was revealed earlier this year that introducing car parking charges at stations was among the other proposals tabled but later ruled out.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “These changes will help us achieve our long-term plan of building a rail network that is better for the passenger and better value for the taxpayer.

“Such restrictions are relatively common on other parts of the network, including in the Merseytravel area, and we expect only a minority of passengers to be affected.”

The new evening peak period will run from just after 4pm until just before 6.30pm.

Richard Allan, Northern Rail’s commercial director, said it had publicised the changes widely.

“The majority of customers who travel at peak times will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening and what options are available to them,” he said.