Resort rail fares rise as services hit by upgrade

Fylde coast rail passengers will see massive investment in 2017 but will pay the price with an average 2.2 per cent rise in fares.

Tuesday, 3rd January 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 3:49 am
Blackpools rail network is set to be upgraded this year but passengers will foot the bill

The increase by rail firm Northern is below the national average but still a disappointment to public transport campaigners who have described UK wide increases as “another kick in the teeth” for passengers.

The rail industry claims fare rises are paying for huge infrastructure projects, including the North West electrification scheme.

That project will provide long-term benefits for passengers but will also result in huge disruption, with an 18-week closure expected on routes to Blackpool from November,

Blackpools rail network is set to be upgraded this year but passengers will foot the bill

Northern has defended the decision to raise unregulated fares.

A spokesman said: “We are committed to an ambitious programme to modernise rail travel for our customers which will deliver better journeys and improve customer service in the North.

“From January 2017 customers using Northern’s trains will see an average fare increase of just 2.2 per cent. We understand any fare increase is likely to be unpopular, though overall fares will remain low. Money raised as a result of the fares increase will go towards delivering better journeys and improving customer service.

“By 2020 everyone travelling on the Northern network will benefit from brand new or completely refurbished trains through our multi-million-pound fleet investment.

Blackpools rail network is set to be upgraded this year but passengers will foot the bill

“All the unpopular Pacer trains will be gone by the end of 2019. We will also further modernise our stations and facilities, all forming part of a significant modernisation designed to deliver a rail service fit for the 21st Century.”

As an example an off-peak return ticket from Poulton to Manchester will now cost £18.50, an increase of 30p on last year.

The overall rise is the highest since January 2014, when fares increased by 2.8 per cent.

Northern says only three per cent of the cost of tickets is profit for the firm.

Lianna Etkind, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Today’s fare rises are another kick in the teeth for long-suffering rail passengers.

“Many experienced a less frequent and more overcrowded service last year, and now they are required to pay more for the same this year. The whole fares system is completely unfair and its high time the Government overhauled it.”

The Government uses the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation to determine increases in regulated fares around 40 per cent of all tickets sold.

Electrification of the Blackpool North line is expected to be completed by May next year.

As part of the work a new platform will be built at Kirkham and platforms will be extended at Blackpool North.

Outdated semaphone signals along the line will also be replaced.