East coast rail passengers hit with fares hike

Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec)has been accused of 'bleeding the travelling public dry' for hiking fares.

Virgin Trains East Coast passengers will be hit with a second fares increase this year. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

More than half of the Scotland-London train operator’s fares will go up by 1.4 per cent from tomorrow for travel from September. Fares across all operators had already increased by an average 1.1 per cent in January.

The firm is also imposing greater restrictions on when passengers can use cheaper, off-peak tickets.

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Two fare rises in a year are unusual, although Vtec points out that it actually reduced fares year-on-year in January by an average of 0.3 per cent when other operators increased.

The firm, which is 90 per cent owned by Perth-based Stagecoach, took over the trains between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and London last year when the operation was re-privatised following several years in public hands.

The extra restrictions mean the afternoon peak period, when cheaper tickets can’t be used, has been extended.

The peak period for trains leaving London will start from 3pm rather then 3.30pm, and extend until 7pm for some journeys.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “When the east coast main line was run in the public sector, it was the most efficient and most popular rail service in the country.

“Reprivatisation has dragged it back down with Virgin/Stagecoach seeing it as nothing more than an opportunity to bleed the travelling public dry”.

Transport Focus passenger director David Sidebottom said: “Vtec’s passengers will be disappointed by these changes.

“Those who rely on travelling at peak times of the day by using the return-leg of an off-peak return ticket will be particularly annoyed at having to fork out more to make their usual journey.”

But rail fares expert Barry Doe said: “It has to be seen in the context that Vtec is a lot cheaper than most operators.”

A Vtec spokesman said: “We have embarked on a £140 million investment programme to improve customer experience, completely overhauling our train fleet and recently launching 42 additional services each week between Edinburgh and London. We still have lots of great deals available and the changes to our fares structure will make it easier to offer low priced fares on less busy services.”

This article has been amended to clarify that the January price rise refers to an average of year-on-year fare increases across all train operators