Sounds familiar..? Eight per cent fare increase is same percentage who end up standing because there aren’t enough seats on some trains from Norfolk

Regular commuters between Norfolk and London will shoulder the cost of improvements to the county's rail network, train companies said last night.

As travellers were warned they faced an 8pc increase in season ticket prices, rail bosses claimed the money would mean more trains, faster services and better stations.

If that figure has a familiar ring to anyone travelling on the Norwich - London line, it's the same as the percentage who end up standing because there aren't enough seats on some trains.

Season tickets between Norwich and Liverpool Street will cost more than �7,000 next year, while commuters using the Fen Line between King's Lynn and King's Cross will be shelling out �4,700.

For the next three years, the cost of travel for regular commuters is set to rise by 3pc above retail inflation, which currently stands at 5pc.

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This is thanks to the complex formula set by the Government, which governs how train companies set their season ticket prices.

More than 50pc of people taking part in an EDP poll yesterday said the increase would help drive them back to the roads. Commuters earlier joined a protest at London's Waterloo Station over the price hike.

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But ATOC - the Association of Train Operating Companies - said the money would be used to improve services.

It also insisted it would mean the taxpayer - ie those of us who don't regularly use the railways - paying less to subsidise those who do.

'We know that these are difficult financial times for many people,' said David Mapp, ATOC's commercial director.

'Increasing the money raised from fares will mean that taxpayers contribute less to the running of the railways, while ensuring that vital investment can continue.

'The industry is working with the Government to cut the cost of running the railways, building on the progress that has already been made.

'A more-efficient railway will help to limit fare rises in the future, and offer better long-term value for money for the taxpayer.'

Yesterday both the region's major rail firms said they could not confirm the exact increases commuters would face until later in the year.

National Express East Anglia, which runs services on the Norwich to London Liverpool Street line, along with trains between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and Norwich and Cambridge, said most increases would be around the 8pc mark.

That means a season ticket from Norwich to London would increase from �6,540 to �7,063, Diss to London from �6,060 to �6,544, Norwich to Cambridge from �3,680 to �3,974 and a season ticket from Great Yarmouth to Norwich from �1,432 to �1,546.

First Capital Connect, which runs services between King's Lynn and London, said it would reveal next year's fares in November or December.

A season ticket between King's Lynn and London King's Cross would increase from �4,360 to �4,708, while a season ticket from Ely to London would go up from �3,924 to �4,237.

ATOC claims that travelling with a season ticket is cheaper now in real terms than it was 15 years ago when the railways where privatised.

But more meaningful comparisms are difficult to make, because detailed figures like the cost of season tickets from individual stations five, 10 or 20 years ago are not available. Not even ATOC or passenger watchdog the Office of Rail Regulation keeps them.

Season tickets still offer far cheaper travel than other forms of ticketing. A commuter using a �7,063 annual season ticket from Norwich to London would be paying around �30 a day for the privilege, assuming they worked five days a week for 46 weeks of the year.

Prices quoted online yesterday for the same journey varied from �45.70 to �93.10 for a peak day return.

Last month Norfolk's MPs joined forces to campaign for improvements to rail services between the county and the capital.

The promise of jam tomorrow when it comes to improvements will bring few smiles to the faces of those who travel daily on increasingly-crowded trains.

Latest overcrowding figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show some 8.4pc of passengers have to stand because there aren't enough seats on 35pc of trains on the Norwich - Liverpool Street line.

The percentage bears an uncanny resemblance to the latest fares hike, while the figure is around half that for the King's Lynn to London route.

Guy Dangerfield, secretary of the Eastern Regional Passengers Committee, said: 'Passengers are already paying some of the highest fares in Europe.

'We know the problem, the railway costs more than it ought to. It's not the commuter's fault that the railway costs more to run than it ought to.'

Andy Tyler, secretary of the Fen Line Users Association said: 'Any increase of this size is disappointing, especially for environmental reasons when we're trying to get people to use public transport.

'But the King's Lynn to King's Cross line is a successful, growing line and we do need to have a good service.

'We need more seats for passengers and it has to be paid for with a balance of money coming from the Government and money coming from the train companies including fare increases.'

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