|[18 JAN 99]
WARWICKSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL PRESS RELEASE
27% Virgin Rails Fair Price Hike
In an open letter, written on behalf of
Warwickshire consumers and businesses, Warwickshire Trading Standards have asked Virgin
boss Richard Branson to justify price increases on rail fares between the county and
London which have ranged from over 16% to almost 27%.
Cllr Ian Bottrill, Leader Of Warwickshire
County Council has written to ask John Prescott MP, Secretary Of State for the
Environment, Transport and the Regions to intervene in this matter.
The cost of a Virgin first class open
return ticket to London, travelling from Coventry or Nuneaton has risen by £17 from £78
to £95, an increase of 21.79%, whilst standard open returns have also risen from £51 to
£59.50, a 16.66% increase.
The cost of travelling from Rugby to London
(first class open return) has increased from £64 to £81, an incredible 26.56% rise,
whilst the cost of a standard open return has increased by almost 19% from £45.50 to
Warwickshire consumers travelling to London
from these three principal mainline stations servicing the county now face the prospect of
paying rail fares which have increased by more than 10 times the underlying rate of
inflation (currently 2.5%)
Noel Hunter, Warwickshire County Trading
Standards Officer said:
"Virgin Trains service problems are
already well documented, but this huge price hike will come as an additional shock to many
rail passengers, especially given that to the year ending June 1998 Virgin rail fares only
increased by an average of around 4%."
Rail regulatory bodies do exist to protect
consumers, but warn Trading Standards Officers, these bodies have limited powers. The
proposed Strategic Rail Authority which will take over responsibility for consumer
protection from the Rail Regulator, will, it is envisaged, have stronger powers to aid
consumers. However, it is unlikely that this new authority will come in to being before
the middle of next year, leaving consumers with up to 18 months to wait, for the promise
of adequate protection.
In comparison, rail fares from Warwick to
London on Chiltern Railways, £54 for an open first class return ticket, and £35 for an
open standard return, have not changed from their pre January 1st 1999 prices when
Chiltern introduced their price changes.
1) In 'An analysis of Fare Rises On
Britain's Railways - Year Ending June 1998' published by the Central Rail Users'
Consultative Committee in October 1998, Virgin West Coast's ticket prices had risen by an
average of 4.0%, whilst Virgin Cross Country's ticket prices had risen by an average of
4.1% (year ending June 1998).
2) Rail fare prices were provided by the
National Rail Enquiry Service.
Virgin Trains Open Returns (pay on the day)
|increase £ and %
||increase £ and %
|Rugby to London
||£17 or 26.56%
||£8.50 or 18.68%
|Coventry to London
||£17 or 21.79%
||£8.50 or 18.68%
|Nuneaton to London
||£17 or 21.79%
||£8.50 or 16.66%
3) A copy of the letter to Richard Branson
is attached below:
Dear Mr Branson
I am writing to you on behalf of Warwickshire County Council to bring to your notice
concerns we wish to raise on behalf of local businesses and consumers following your
recent increase of rail fares in this region.
The principal mainline railway stations servicing Warwickshire consumers are Rugby,
Coventry and Nuneaton. At each station, open return tickets have increased from 1 January
1999 by between 17% and 27%. This extraordinary increase in prices set against an
underlying rate of inflation of 2.5% and service problems which are well documented, leads
us to challenge the pricing policy of your company.
We are writing this as an open letter to you in the public interest and will be
grateful for an early reply to explain the justification for these increases in the light
of the present standard of service and the current rate of inflation.
County Trading Standards Officer