In England, South West Trains has raised off-peak fares by 20 percent! Reduced fares during off-peak travel were designed to discourage overcrowding during morning and afternoon rush periods. Other than making more money for the franchaise holders, where's the benefit? Do they want more travelers to cram onto the rush-hour trains? Will passengers traveling off-peak receive improved service? Will trains run on time? I think not. Here's Barrie Clement's story from today's Independent in London:
The operator of Britain's busiest commuter rail routes provoked fury yesterday by raising off-peak fares by up to 20 percent. South West Trains (SWT), which promised the Government £1.19bn over 10 years in return for retaining its franchise, will charge the higher prices for those who travel into London Waterloo just outside the morning rush-hour. A new "super off-peak" fare, which will be three percent more than the current off-peak price, will be paid by those travelling after noon. First-class fares will also increase by between 15 and 20 percent. The rises come on top of increases of up to 5.3 percent from 1 January and could presage similar decisions by companies running other commuter routes.
The announcement resulted in allegations of "daylight robbery" against SWT and "hypocrisy" against the government, whose policy is to encourage people to use trains rather than cars. Ministers' insistence on extracting the highest possible premiums from train-operating firms has led to higher fares and the failure of Great North Eastern Railways.
Richard Dyer of Friends of the Earth, said: "These changes will present a major disincentive to making the greener choice to go by rail. Government policy is simply inconsistent." PassengerFocus, which represents rail travellers, said the increases were "unexplained, unjustified and unfair." The organisation's chief executive Anthony Smith said the increases had as "much to do with making money as they do in seeking to ease crowding pressures on true peak-hour trains."
Bruce Akhurst, the SWT commercial director, said the new ticket-type would bring the franchise into line with some other train firms and allow management to match demand and pricing better.Stagecoach, the parent company of SWT, said the fare increases would affect fewer than 20 per cent of passengers and was "entirely consistent" with the business plan submitted to the Department for Transport.
Brian Souter, the chief executive of Stagecoach and his sister Ann Gloag, who helped to found the business, are to collect £168m after the group decided to increase its capital return to shareholders by 75 per cent.