Future of our rail travel is a complex issue

At New Year, many Wharfedale and Aireborough people who use local trains are accustomed to seeing a leap in fares.

Some years, it has been the cheaper off-peak fares which have the biggest rise. Other times – as at the beginning of this year – it was the climbing cost of season tickets such as West Yorkshire’s Metrocard, which stood out.

One of the reasons for price rises on the Wharfedale Line in recent years has been to help pay for additional rolling stock.

Passengers will see some benefit later this year, when limited additional peak-time trains will run on the Wharfedale Line, to cater for the ever-rising passenger numbers.

West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (Metro) chairman and Leeds city councillor James Lewis (Lab, Kippax and Methley) claims London and the South East receive four times as much transport funding as the North of England. He said: “Northern has received additional carriages recently which will ease some of the overcrowding commuters have to put up with, but I am in no doubt that many more are needed to handle the increased growth in rail travel as the local economy recovers.

“I’m calling on the Government to redress the balance in spending, increase transport investment in the North and drive our economic recovery forward.”

Metro has yet to reveal if it will be raising the cost of its own Metrocard season tickets.

The rise in the limit for regulated fare increases does not mean all rail companies have to put their fares up by this amount.

It has been speculated, however, that there will be national pressure on train companies to make improvements to services and facilities – and not having the money due to keeping fares low might reflect badly on them.

The Northern franchise, including all services on the Wharfedale Line, will be up for renewal in 2013, and operators who bid for this are likely to be staking their claim next year.

Current franchise operator Northern Rail has yet to specify exactly what its fares will be in 2012, not only the regulated fares, but also unregulated fares, such as off-peak journeys.

A spokesman for Northern said: “The Government will apply a formula to limit average increases to regulated rail fares to RPI plus three per cent over the next three years to help pay for more trains and improvements to stations.

“The cost of our average journey is just £2.20 and travelling with Northern is often cheaper and quicker than the car or the bus for similar journeys, and will remain so in 2012 and beyond.”

WRUG says the answer lies in Sir Roy McNulty’s independent Rail Value for Money Study, published earlier this year. The report pointed at inefficiencies and excess costs and suggests a radical reorganisation and simplification of the complex structure, to cut costs.

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