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Why do people in Norfolk and Suffolk pay more for their train fares?

PUBLISHED: 08:33 22 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:34 22 October 2015

Abellio trains and carriages at Crown point and Norwich Station. Photo : Steve Adams

Abellio trains and carriages at Crown point and Norwich Station. Photo : Steve Adams

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Railway passengers are being hit in the pocket by a postcode lottery in the fares they pay, day four of our week long investigation today reveals. Andrew Hirst reports.

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For most of us, the cost of travel is an inescapable part of life.

Whether it is for a tank of petrol or an annual train ticket – it is hard to avoid the frequent need to get from A to B.

Greater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio.  Photo: Bill SmithGreater Anglia train on the Norwich to London service run by Abellio. Photo: Bill Smith

While rising costs are a frequent source of complaint among travellers across the nation, we tend to imagine it affects us all pretty much equally.

But an analysis of train travel in the region suggests this is far from the case.

We have found that train fares for services in Norfolk and Suffolk can work out as more than twice the cost per mile as in other areas of the UK.

Rail user groups say the higher costs levied on local services are especially hard to swallow, as much of the money raised through their fares is indirectly redistributed to lines where ticket costs are lower – such as those in Scotland and Wales.

This is because the government takes hundreds of millions of pounds every year in franchise payments from train operating companies on profitable lines – including Abellio Greater Anglia – to support routes where there are fewer passengers.

Abellio today acknowledged that passengers would like to see more of the money raised from their fares spent on local services and says it shares that aspiration, having campaigned as part of the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce for greater investment.

But the operator stressed that fares are mainly determined by the government and are not based purely on mileage. It said discounts were available by purchasing tickets in advance.

Looking at the price of fares across eight regional journeys and five elsewhere in the country, we have found widespread differences in the cost per mile travelled, with intercity routes, such as Norwich to London, costing far more than regional services.

Meanwhile, fares in Norfolk and Suffolk were higher than in other parts of the UK. An anytime single fare from Norwich to London, bought on the day of travel, costs £50.70 – working out as 41p per mile. The same type of ticket on the Swansea to Cardiff service costs £8, or 20p per mile.

Season tickets on the Welsh service work out as being much cheaper per mile as those from Norwich. Services between Edinburgh and Glasgow are also far cheaper than in East Anglia.

Derek Monnery, pictured, chairman of the Essex Rail Users Federation, which campaigns for the Norwich to London line, said passengers in East Anglia received a “shockingly bad deal”.

“The problem is that the line has been starved of the investment that it needs,” he added.

Abellio’s income from passengers in 2013/14 – the latest year for which figures have been published – was £625m. But its franchise agreement with the government required it to make net payments totalling £164m. Once payroll, operating costs and Network Rail’s payments were deducted, Abellio made a £3m net loss over the course of the year.

Meanwhile Arriva Trains Wales, which runs the cheaper Swansea to Cardiff service, received franchise payments from the government of £156m. Its profits for 2013/14 were £17m.

The Department for Transport, which determines how much operators pay or receive through their franchise agreements and also sets the price of all regulated fares in the UK, said the fares reflected “variations in demand and cost”.

A spokesman said: “Fares revenue helps to fund our record investment in the railways, and in East Anglia, customers are seeing the benefits of this through station improvements and upgraded trains, with many more improvements to come in the new franchise.”

Tomorrow: What next for the region’s railways?

Have your say on our train services by taking part in our online survey.

HOW RAILFARES ARE SET

Regulated fares are overseen by the government. They include most standard and saver return fares, as well as weekly season tickets.

Unregulated fares are set by train operating companies at commercial rates, and include first class and advance purchase fares.

Between 2004 and 2013, regulated fares rose by on average 1% above RPI inflation.

The government decided that regulated fares in 2014 and 2015 would rise in line with RPI inflation. It uses the July inflation rate as the benchmark for these rises, which was 2.5% for the 2015 fares changes.

Network Rail claims that for every £1 you pay, 97% goes back into the railway, with the rest on train company profits. It says 26% goes on railway investment, 25% industry staff costs and 22% maintaining track and trains.

FOOTFALL FIGURES

Recent statistics published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) showed the number of passenger journeys on rail services in Great Britain reached 1.654 billion in 2014/15, the highest figure since records began in 2002/3 and an increase of 4.2% on the previous year.

In the area covered by Greater Anglia, Cambridge was the busiest station during 2013/14, the most recent period for which figures are available, with a footfall count of 9.8m, up 7.2% in a year.

In Norwich that figure was 4.1m (up 0.3pc) and Ipswich 3.3m (down 1.1pc).

The station with the biggest increase year on year was Oulton Broad South with 42,884 people leaving or arriving (up 53pc), followed by Spooner Row, near Wymondham, 388 (up 47pc), Berney Arms, in Broadland, 1,510 (up 43pc) and Cressing, near Braintree, 39,846 (up 33pc).

Westerfield, in Suffolk, saw the biggest decrease, 9,864 (down 25pc), followed by Lakenheath, 378 (down 14pc) and Brundall Gardens, in Broadland, 10, 534 (down 13pc).

The least used of all stations in the region was Shippea Hill, near Lakenheath, used just 12 times in a year, followed by Buckenham, in south Norfolk (80).

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17 comments

  • So @andy, you spent £60 (and had been prepared to spend even more) to get home an hour early and maintain your first-class privilege. Yet you have the audacity to complain about ticket prices in the first place. Some people really do have more money than sense.

    Report this comment

    Steveo

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • Curious. A few nights ago a pre booked ticket from London on a specific train cost £26. A bargain that was only £1.50 more than a standard ticket. Not that unusual. As a meeting finished earlier than expected, I could take an earlier train. To travel one hour earlier a first class single ticket would cost about £100 less a partial refund on the £26 ticket. However the best option was to get a first class return ticket for £60. Normally a standard return ticket would cost £105. Guess which ticket was bought?

    Report this comment

    andy

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • So to summarize. We are being ripped off. As I have commented on a number of occasions we are paying some of the highest fares in Europe for the worst and least reliable services. We do however rate highest in terms of delays and cancellations.

    Report this comment

    Grey Fox

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • And FYI to other comments - there ARE season tickets available on all lines where the Anglia Plus is available. Norwich-Yarmouth season is £42.20week or £49.60week for the Anglia Plus.

    Report this comment

    Stephen Thomson

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • You are talking rubbish here, the article is completely inaccurate. Edinburgh to Glasgow Annual Season ticket costs £3712, definitely not £2160. An Anytime Single is £13.50, and the Cheapest Single is £8.40. Why would you compare costs of "Anytime" tickets and then say that you are actually comparing "Off Peak" tickets? The figures are completely all over the place.

    Report this comment

    Stephen Thomson

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • @daisy - putting the boot the jocks and their oil again, tut tut. If they can organise and represent themselves good on them. You shouldn't blame Norfolk and Suffolk's inadequacies on others; the truth of the matter lies a lot closer to home.

    Report this comment

    Rushallchap2

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • A few weeks ago my missus and myself decided to spend a day in sheringham and made the decision to get train from salhouse as there's free parking. The website came up with a return ticket for two at just over £25, that was about £12.75 each if i remember. Obviously we decided to drive in the end. So much for the encouragement to use public transport.

    Report this comment

    canaryboy71

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • "Why?" - I would have thought a large part of it is down to the fact that most of the constituencies here are safe seats and sparsely populated. Therefore there is no political capital to be made in forcing the hand of private business. Much better to push hard in a marginal highly populated constituency to show how 'in touch and on it' you are. Safe seats in rural areas will always go to the back of the queue in terms of politicians priorities. There is also no real alternative form of transport that delivers anything like the service (even though the train is pretty rubbish too) to develop some sort of competition. If you need to get to London from Norwich for work or a meeting unless you set off 3 or 4 hours before you need to be there on the bus or in a car, there is no real alternative to the train. It's a shame but it's the reality of the current situation.

    Report this comment

    Rushallchap2

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • This is as far from the market as you could get without the industry being renationalised. If commuters in the SE had to pay the real cost of their rolling stock standing idle most of the day their tickets would be much more expensive-as would routes in Wales and the North West because of distances and sparse populations. We have few lines, they are quite busy. If there is to be this unfair levy system between operators the whole lot might as well be renationalised.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • If the posters had read the other articles they would have known that a levy is taken from every ticket ( or if you like from the operators) in the region and is re allocated to other regions as a rail subsidy, That is why we pay more, to keep the vast numbers of commuter trains running in the SE or to keep the services running for the chippy beggars on the Celtic fringe or the Northwest. Same old, same as the Barnett formula for government funding to councils, Everyone became accustomed to kicking us when we were down as a mainly agricultural region without the might of heavy industry unions on the political stage and we stay down because of devolved power to the other nations of the UK and despite the fact that the economy of the East of England is a net contributor to the national economy. The only way we get to muscle up against the leeches in other regions is to persuade Cambridgeshire to join Norfolk and Suffolk when devolved power becomes a reality.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • "Why? Because that's the market! Get over it!". Says Marty. Yes, the voice of a compassionate thoughtful Tory.

    Report this comment

    Davidbrian552

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • What a load of useless comparisons. This shows that Norwich to London is cheaper per mile than Manchester to London or Peterborough to London. Also, there's no direct Season ticket for Norwich-Yarmouth, Norwich-Lowestoft, etc. but you can get the Anglia Pass for Norfolk Zone (including Lowestoft).

    Report this comment

    Gary10

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • Why do people in Norfolk and Suffolk pay more for their train fares? Because it costs a lot to keep vintage trains and infrastructure running. It's about time these nostalgia enthusiasts paid a bit more for the privilege.

    Report this comment

    One Horse Town

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • Why? Because that's the market! Get over it!

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • I work in Milton Keynes. The journey from MK booked a week in advance to Norwich is £23.70, the journey from Norwich to MK is £60!

    Report this comment

    996 ducati

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • It is £9. I have just checked.

    Report this comment

    Nelson

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

  • The cheapest single to London from Norwich is not £17.50 it is less.

    Report this comment

    Nelson

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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