POLITICIANS and commuters have joined forces to call for a planned 3.5 per cent hike in train fares to be scrapped.
David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, said passengers deserved a better deal and declared the fares a ‘rip off’.
A 3.5 per cent increase would see the price of a year-long season ticket between Bolton and Manchester go up £33.74, costing commuters a total of £997.74.
A peak-time day return would go up from £6.30 to £6.55.
And Bolton residents will be further hit, after Northern Rail announced from September 8 off-peak tickets will be banned between 4pm and 6.30pm.
Mr Crausby said the latest increase means fares have risen more than 24 per cent since David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010 — and some ticket prices could go up.as much as 5.5 per cent.
He added: “Once again we are seeing a round of fare increases with no clear gains for passengers.
“Commuters have their wage squeezed more and more, and they’re punished further for wanting to catch trains at more popular times.
“This comes right after local train operators have decided to make journeys even more confusing and expensive by creating an evening peak period.”
Deana Morris used to travel by train from her home in south Manchester to her work at the University of Bolton.
But she decided a few weeks ago it was cheaper to travel by car as rail fares were costing her almost £1,000.
The 49-year-old said: “It’s very difficult to expect people to choose between being environmentally friendly and saving money when it’s not only more expensive for people to take the train, but the journey is unpleasant.
“There’s never enough room on the train for everybody, it can be very claustrophobic and I’ve heard of people fainting in the summer because it’s just too hot.
“I’m very lucky that I have a choice between driving and taking the train, but this fare rise is exploiting people that don’t have that choice which is unfair.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said no decision has been taken about fare rises for 2015.
They added the percentage increase was calculated by a formula using the Retail Prices Index, based on inflation figures in July.
Labour has pledged that, if elected in May 2015, it would create a legal right for passengers to be sold the cheapest available ticket for their journey, and Mr Crausby said this would only help frustrated travellers.
He added: “Labour are right to call for a real cap on fares that train operators can’t fiddle, people have had enough.
“We need a better deal for passengers, with reforms that put them first. For many just finding the right ticket is complex, so creating a legal right to the cheapest ticket for your journey would save both time and money.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said the increase, based on a formula tracking inflations, was not yet finalised.
Rail minister Claire Perry added more than £38 billiion will be spent maintaining and improving the rail network across the UK over the next five years, and rail fares pay towards the cost.
She said: “Although a decision on fare rises for 2015 hasn’t yet been taken, we are looking closely at the cost of travel as part of our ongoing commitment to help hard-working people, which has also seen us increase the personal allowance, freeze council tax and fuel duty, and cut energy bills.”