Passengers told to book early or feel the pain of fare rises
RAIL passengers are set to "feel the pain" of the latest price hike in season tickets.
Passenger Focus, the official consumer organisation representing the interests of rail users nationally, is warning passengers to book ahead to avoid painful price rises coming into force in 2013.
The group has highlighted the likely increases including a 5.4 per cent rise in the price of a season ticket from Llanelli to Swansea which will jump from the current rate of £592 to £624 next year.
A season ticket from Swansea to Cardiff currently stands at £1,468 for 12 months. Next year that price will increase to £1,560. A year-long season ticket from Neath to Swansea currently sets passengers back £452.
This will increase to £472 next year.
Passenger Focus said it appeared train companies were exercising restraint but added that price rises will still feel steep in some places.
Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Passengers will feel this pain.
"After years of above-inflation fare rises, fresh increases are piling pressure on already high fares.
"The Government and the rail industry must now work together to deliver on the welcome promise to get fare rises in line with inflation."
Regulated fares account for around 40 per cent of total fares.
Train companies can raise non-regulated fares by as much as they like.
Details of all fare rises are expected in the next few days.
A spokesman for independent campaign group Railfuture said rail users are being priced off the railways by the latest round of price increases.
Bruce Williamson of Railfuture said: "Rail users won't be happy about this because they have been hit with above inflation increases year after year after year.
"Rail use is getting more expensive in real terms and goes against the Government's claim it wants to be the greenest government ever, if that were true they would be trying to get people on the trains instead of trying to discourage them by pricing them off.
"I fear we will see more price increases.
"The Government has a policy of shifting the burden from the tax payer to the fare payer but we think they have gone too far with that.
"We do have the highest rail fares in Europe. I think we have got to look at how other European countries do it as a model of best practice."
Swansea West MP Geraint Davies said the Government should be doing more to ease the burden on rail users and stimulate growth in the economy.
He said: "As you get closer to Wales and Swansea on the train from Paddington the volume of people gets less so we should not be having increases in fares for the last leg of the Paddington to Swansea line.
"The Government already spends millions of pounds of tax payers money subsidising the rail companies.
"It should target support to help people take up local jobs so we should not be seeing such dramatic increases.
"The extra cost of going from Bristol to Swansea should be minimised."
News of the rail fare increases comes six months after a multi-million pound facelift of Swansea's High Street railway station.
Funding for the £7million project came from Network Rail, the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Stations Improvement Programme.
The work included installing a glass screen wall to cut draughts on the station, canopies over the platforms, ticket barriers and a ticket office as well as two buildings inside the station circulating area and a new information point.