The metro mayors of Manchester and Liverpool city regions have written to the Secretary of State for Transport to demand a freeze on rail fares, following a dramatic collapse in service levels since new timetables were introduced in May.
Generally, future rail fare increases are set using the July rate of RPI, published in August, which sets the level for fare increases introduced in the subsequent January. This year’s July rate of RPI is expected to be announced imminently.
In their letter to Chris Grayling, mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram say: “Over the past few months travelling by train in the North has become a lottery, where passengers turn up at stations with no idea if there will be a train or whether they will arrive at their destination on time.
“This crisis has caused real damage to the North – the current estimate is that at least £38m has been lost from the economy – and has led to many commuters turning their backs on using the train and seeking other means of getting around.”
The mayors argue that a 2019 fare freeze is proportionate given the disruption on both networks over the past few months and the delays in planned service upgrades. They also believe a freeze could help attract back passengers to the railways who have been put off by recent disruption.
Burnham added: “The rail industry has caused real misery for thousands of passengers across the North. Not only have people lost time at work or with their families, they have had to shell out for taxis, extra childcare and even hotel bills because of the continuing disruption.
“To ask these long-suffering passengers now to pay even more for a poor, unreliable service is to add insult to injury. A freeze in the current fares is the very least that passengers deserve.”
Yesterday, Northern cancelled around 80 services, including trains on the Liverpool to Manchester Airport line, a third Sunday within the last month beset by mass cancellations.
Rotheram concluded: “With service improvements postponed until May 2019 and no guarantees from the rail operators that they can sort out the current mess anytime soon, it would be wrong to ask people to pay more, for less.”