Passengers on services in the new mega-franchise of Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) face “stealth fare rises”, with some season tickets going up by 18%, according to Labour.
The new franchise means First Capital Connect (FCC) and Southern services are merging. Labour said on Monday that where two existing franchises compete – for example, Brighton to London where FCC and Southern both operate – eliminating the cheaper fare is a condition of the new franchise. Labour said it had received confirmation that the cheaper FCC fares will be phased out, but “ministers have failed to state when and how that will happen”. Under the new franchise some commuters from Brighton to London will pay 18%, or £664 a year, more for their season ticket. Day fares on other routes will rise by up to 74%. Last week some off-peak fares were axed on some Northern Rail routes.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, has tabled an Early Day Motion to protect rail services and jobs from the Government-backed French and German takeover of the new ‘super franchise’. Ms Lucas said:
“The new franchise threatens the livelihoods of skilled local railway workers and our services. I absolutely support today’s protests and call on the Government to review this new super franchise as a matter of urgency to ensure the protection of jobs, services and passenger safety.
“Our once thriving railways, now privatised and fragmented, are today characterised by poor services and some of the most expensive fares in Europe. They’re ripping off passengers, harming the economy and failing the environment.
“If the Government really wants to make savings and improve our transport network for all, it should accept that privatisation has clearly failed and gradually return the railways into public ownership. A publicly-owned railway system will provide quality services, fair prices and protect our jobs: a railway service we can again be rightly proud of.”
The Labour shadow transport secretary, Mary Creagh, said: “Just one week after George Osborne and Nick Clegg hammered their constituents in the north with huge stealth fare increases, the Tories and Lib Dems are at it again. David Cameron has allowed rail companies to hit commuters with inflation-busting fare hikes of more than 20% since 2010, and his government’s plans for secret fare rises in the south-east will leave commuters hundreds of pounds out of pocket.”
She added: “Labour’s plan for the railways would tackle the cost-of-living crisis and drive the biggest reform of the railways since privatisation.
“Labour will cap rail fares, legislate for a public sector operator, devolve the running of regional and local services and deliver a railway which puts passengers first, not profits.”
The Go Ahead Group, which part-owns Govia, said that the new fare levels had not yet been decided and would be decided by the government.
A spokeswoman said: “We are running the new franchise on a management basis, which means that all income from fares goes to the Government rather than to the company. As such it is up to the Department for Transport to set the fares.
“It will be up to them to decide how fast this will happen and set the fare levels, but it does mean that the Thameslink-only fares will increase at a higher rate than the Southern ones in order for them to eventually equalise.
“The rate at which the fares are ‘harmonised’ is yet to be determined by the DfT.”
According to Labour, these fares are going up
Brighton to London season tickets will rise from £3,640 to £4,304 – up £664 (18%); a season ticket from Three Bridges (Crawley) to London will rise from £2,956 to £3,392 – up £436 (15%). An off-peak day return from Brighton to London will rise from £16.40 to £28.50 – up £12.10 (74%); from Three Bridges to London it rises from £11.30 to £17.60 – up £6.30 (56%) and an anytime day return from South Tottenham to Gatwick rises from £20.80 to £31.50 – up £10.70 (51%).