ANGER AT RAIL FIRMS INFLATION BUSTING FARES INCREASE
The Liberal Democrats have demanded that several of the country's leading train firms abandon plans to impose above inflation hikes in the price of regulated fares, season tickets and saver tickets for Newcastle's rail passengers.
CrossCountry, National Express East Coast, First TransPennine Express and Northern Rail are all planning 6% increases.
The increase in ticket prices not regulated by the Government is to be an even steeper.
CrossCountry, which connects Newcastle with the South West, announced a huge 11% rise, National Express East Coast, which runs services to London and Scotland, says fares will go up 7.4%, while First TransPennine Express is planning a 6.4% hike and local operator Northern Rail a 7% jump.
The announcement of the inflation-busting fares hike for Newcastle's rail travellers was met with an angry response by Liberal Democrat Newcastle North Parliamentary spokesman Ron Beadle.
"Train passengers living in Newcastle are being hit for six by these rail firms," he said.
"At a time when people are struggling with the recession, this train company is adding to people's difficulties and is stinging passengers for more cash.
"These rises could make the recession worse in Newcastle and could lead to more congestion and pollution as people abandon public transport for their car instead.
"I am calling on the Government to step in and use the power they have over regulated fares to impose a freeze on ticket prices for a year.
"This could be paid for from within the Government's road-widening budget.
"Just as the Government stepped in to freeze fuel duty for motorists because of the recession, they should change their mind and stop these price increases going ahead.
"Rail passengers will rightly feel that they are being taken for a ride by these firms.
"They have every right to feel angry with this price hike and with the Government for letting it happen."
The Government has agreed that the ticket price increases can come into effect on 2nd January 2009.