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Rail fare hikes a 'kick in the teeth'

Commuters returning to work after Christmas have been given an unwanted late present by rail operators in the form of price increases.

Branded a ‘kick in the teeth’ by union bosses when they were announced last year, the new fares came into effect on Tuesday.

The hike has seen tickets up by an average of 2.3 per cent nationally, more than double last year’s increase.

It leaves those travelling between Maidenhead and London Paddington paying £21.90 for an anytime day return, up by 1.86 per cent.

This rises to £28.40 if a London Zones 1-6 travel card is added, up 2.9 per cent.

However, if commuters booked their journey in two stages, going from Maidenhead to Slough and then from Slough to Paddington, they could save £1.50 on the cost of an anytime day return to the capital, or £2.80 on the price of the same ticket with a London travel card included.

But rail operator Great Western Railway (GWR) has denied attempting to profit unfairly from the discrepancy.

In a statement, a spokesman for GWR said: “The money raised by Government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services.

“This investment is already delivering new trains in London and the Thames Valley; and we will see the first of our new Intercity Express Trains in passenger service next year – which will deliver more seats, more frequent services, and quicker journeys.”

But rail user Natasha Dogra disagreed. She said: “I have been commuting for the past four years from Maidenhead to London; year on year the price of my annual rail ticket has increased while the standard of the service offered by GWR has declined. Weekly delays are the norm, cancellations without replacement services are common and seat reservations are not even offered anymore.

“Every train during rush hour is overcrowded yet GWR claim this latest hike in ticket prices will help invest in more frequent, faster services. If their current train services are anything to go by the improvements will arrive late, cost a higher than anticipated price and customers won’t be kept informed of the delay.”

Richard Porter of the Marlow Maidenhead Passenger Association said the issue was not unique to GWR and echoed a consensus that few of the much proclaimed improvements had yet to be seen by passengers.

He also raised concerns about provision for services on the Marlow and Henley branch lines.

GWR denied that cuts had been made to services on the Marlow and Henley branch lines, but conceded that due to ‘complex timetables inevitably we cannot improve service for the majority of users without having an impact on some others’.

Visit www.gwr.com for more information on the new fares introduced this month.

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