By James Briscoe
Children, the disabled and over-60s in Manchester face a more costly commute after fares for trains, buses and trams increased this month.
Children between the ages of 5 and 16 who travel before 9.30am on weekdays used to pay a flat rate of 80p but they will now be made to pay half the adult rate by the Greater Manchester Integrated Travel Authority (GMITA).
Over-60s and some disabled people will also have to pay the increased price.
Revised fares for tickets (effective from 03 April 2011):
Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), which was Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive (GMPTE) before this month, say that the changes form part of cost savings of more than £40 million over the next three years.
Patrick from Hulme, said: “The councils are complaining about a lack of funds and having to make cuts whilst spending a fortune on a needless title change just to make it look like some people in these quangos do some work”.
The three major Manchester bus companies blame increased prices on the loss of tax-payer funded subsidies which helped to keep concessions low.
Figures show the price of a First child weekly ticket has jumped by 21.4% from £7 to £8.50.
A weekly adult ticket has risen from £16 to £17 and an adult day ticket from £4.10 to £4.20.
Coun Keith Whitmore, chair of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “We’re extremely unhappy about this. The hiking up of prices on the back of our decision is unacceptable.”
He wrote to First managing director Richard Soper saying: “This could undermine the partnership approach that has been developed in recent times.”
Dave Sherwood, a commuter from Irlam, said: “Funny how they (bus firms) cry hard up but still make more and more profit every year”.
One organisation trying to combat an unfair increase in public transport costs is the Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust of which Michael Palin is president. Their mission statement says: “We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels.”
The Campaign for Better Transport is running The Fair Fares Now campaign which, according to a spokeswoman is off to a great start.
She says that thousands of people had signed up to support Fair Fares Now by the end our their very first week; and a wide range of organisations, from Friends of the Earth to the TUC to many rail user groups, are also backing the campaign http://bettertransport.org.uk/fairfares/who-we-are alongside celebrities Michael Palin and Jenny Agutter.
Free to increase prices
Train fares will also rise as rail companies are now free to increase prices to RPI (Retail Prices Index) plus 3% for three years from 2012 after the spending review in October last year.
The Campaign for Better Transport said that according to the latest wage and inflation forecasts in last month’s budget, average earnings for 2012 will increase by only 2.2%. Regulated rail fares on the other hand will increase by an average 8% – and up to 13% in some places.
Richard Greenberg, spokesperson for Which? said: “Rising train fares provide yet another stress on the pockets of consumers, with many fares rising far faster than inflation. This isn't helped by the confusion faced when trying to secure the best deal on their travel.
“All too often baffling and incoherent rules across different train operators leave passengers unable to get the best value tickets. Which? research found that the rules are so confusing that even ticket office staff are unable to advise on the best options available. If trained staff can't get it right, is it any wonder passengers are getting ripped off?”
Andrew Jones, commuter, from Heaton Chapel, said: “Are they trying to drive us off the trains and back into cars?”
Those who use Manchester’s tram system will not escape price rises as tram fares in Greater Manchester have gone up by an average of more than 6%.
An adult peak return fare on the Metrolink network will now cost 20p more.
The GMITA said fares had been stationary for two years and trams and track had been improved.
The Metrolink rise means an annual season ticket for an adult, from Altrincham to Manchester, has risen from £875 to £930.
Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, and Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central, said the rise was "unjustified" and called for a public consultation on the issue.
Nevertheless, chairman of GMITA, Counc Ian Macdonald said the fares were justified and that a consultation was not appropriate.
Many people who use Manchester’s transport links will surely admit to its good availability and predominant timeliness, however we have to ask ourselves if we would pay what often seem to be extortionate fees if we did not absolutely have to. But for many of us, public transport is our only way to get to work or school and, no matter how wealthy or hard-up we are, we have to put aside a substantial amount of money to pay for our travel each year.
And with transport bosses and bus and train companies passing the blame back and forth, it seems that no-one is willing to miss out on the apparent windfall the necessity that is public transport brings.
Rail companies say that tickets cost more because of rail repairs and fare-dodgers but will there be a point when commuters just cannot afford to or refuse to pay what are becoming unfair and unrealistic prices? Have your say below.