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Northern Rail blames DfT for controversial fare decision

Off-peak tickets will no longer be accepted on weekday evenings on Northern Rail trains, under unpopular revenue-raising plans the TOC says have been forced on it by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The changes will take effect from 8 September and will mean that off-peak tickets can no longer be used at peak times during weekday evenings on local rail services in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, along the Newcastle – Hexham line and some associated routes.

The train operating company advised that customers who currently use off-peak tickets during the evening peak will either have to travel earlier or later, or buy an anytime ticket.

Richard Allan, commercial director at Northern Rail, said: “The majority of customers who travel at peak times, such as those with season tickets, will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening.

“We have consulted extensively with local stakeholders and with Passenger Focus on the detail of this change, which is part of our new franchise agreement that was announced in March.”

According to an internal document for staff, shared with the media by the RMT union, Northern says: “The changes are being made after the Department of Transport asked Northern to look at several options to generate additional revenue as part of its new franchise agreement.” 

The changes have provoked an angry response from the RMT, which said it could be “a taste of what’s to come” when new Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises come into effect in 2016. The union said: "Northern Rail have put their hands up and openly admitted it's a pure cash-raising exercise driven directly by the government."

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT, said: “The axing of off-peak fares is a savage kick in the teeth for people already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity and the fact that it has been cooked up by the DfT in collusion with the privatisation pirates from Northern Rail is a warning of what’s to come.

“Let’s not forget that the core of the government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate. That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun.”

James MacColl, campaigns director at the Campaign for Better Transport, added that introducing evening peak-time fares on Northern Rail is “counterproductive and unfair”.

He stated that “given the crowded and decrepit state of some of the trains”, the focus from government and Northern Rail should be on “investment and attracting more passengers, not hitting exist train users with fare hikes”.

In its defence, the DfT stated that the changes will help achieve the government’s long-term economic plan of building a rail network that provides the best possible value for money for the taxpayer.

“They may also help reduce crowding on evening services, as well as contributing towards future service improvements for the benefit of all passengers,” said a DfT spokesperson. “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 DfT is currently consulting on the new Northern and TPE franchises ahead of the launch of a bidding process. The deadline for the consultation is 18 August.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Back On My Bike   13/08/2014 at 18:58

A typically cynical move from the most cynical of companies. In the last month, I've travelled without paying on four of their trains because the guard didn't bother to come to sell a ticket to me. This company doesn't need to increase fares, it needs to collect those it's already got! They'd rather squeeze their regular customers harder than get off their backsides - both literally and figuratively - to help themselves. If it requires effort, Northern Rail are always found wanting.

Rodger Bradley   15/08/2014 at 10:34

Classic example of the ongoing failure of privatisation. First my railway is taken from me and sold off to the highest bidder - and then not only do I subsidise the commercial business, I have to pay extra because the DfT is unable to manage the overall transport infrastructure in the UK. When will they apologise for the errors they made with the privatisation actions in the 1990s and re-nationalise the railways.

Grahamh   15/08/2014 at 15:57

I've got a pass, so am not affected, but I am amazed at how infrequently it's checked. They must be losing big money here. However, given that the Guard has got to push his/her way through an enormous crush at every station to do doors and buzz the driver, then you can understand why many don't bother.

Al   16/08/2014 at 20:14

Bet its not going to happen in London, typical government stance to make the poor North pay more than they should. People are going to change to other means of transport, than cough up for more higher fares, and why at the weekend, when its mostly used. If the Dft wants empty trains during the days and weekend then it will happen. Roll on ukip.

Vic Smith   17/08/2014 at 17:22

northern FAIL strike again,we travel on trains that are 40yrs plus and are unreliable with staff that cant be bothered leaving their cab at peak tmes,because the train is that overcrowed the conducter cant get through,i wouldnt mind if we had decent trains but we havent,rail fares are expensive enough without this,the dft and northern rail chief execuatives need to try it some time,especialy the the manchester newmills service,when you have 150 plus people trying to get on a 2 car train.

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