Major fare hikes by Northern Rail could be just the start of substantial price increases on the network, campaigners have warned.
Northern Rail has axed some off-peak fares, with new charges coming into effect from yesterday, leading some fares to more than double in price.
Passengers are no longer able to use off-peak tickets between 4pm and 6.30pm on weekday evenings - a move Northern Rail says is part of efforts to reduce the subsidy it needs from the Government.
Members of the RMT union spoke to passengers outside Sheffield railway station yesterday afternoon about the changes.
The union says the rises are ‘a kick in the teeth for the travelling public’ and a ‘taste of what’s around the corner under the new franchises’.
And it is warning that commuters could face further price increases as a result of planned Government changes to the Northern and Trans-Pennine Express franchises.
More than 17,000 people responded to a consultation on planned changes to the franchises, which are due to come under new ownership from 2016.
The Campaign for Better Transport has also attacked the Northern Rail rises, saying they would hit part-time and shift workers particularly.
CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: “Despite Government promises, there are no flexible tickets for the increasing numbers of people who work part time, or anything other than traditional nine-to-five hours. Their only option is to pay for individual tickets, which will now be double the price on Northern Rail’s most popular routes.”
Northern Rail commercial director Richard Allan said: “The majority of customers who travel at peak times will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening and what options are available to them.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said the changes would help build a ‘rail network that is better for the passenger and better value for the taxpayer’.
“We expect only a minority of passengers to be affected,” he added.