Swindon AdvertiserTrain fare rises will be kept as low as possible (From Swindon Advertiser)

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Train fare rises will be kept as low as possible

COMMUTERS are set to be hit in the pocket again with rail fare increases but First Great Western has said it is committed to keeping fares as low as possible.

Fares will rise by an average of 5.9 per cent from Monday, January 2, the Association of Train Operating Companies said.

Prices on the Swindon to London route will increase by 2.75 per cent, meaning the cost of a season ticket will go up by £193, to £7,217.

But First Great Western has promised that none of its fares will rise above the six per cent formula set by the Government.

The train company has a three-point plan to keep its fares as low as possible when ticket prices change in the New Year.

These include implementing the Chancellor's decision to limit average regulated fares to Retail Price Index of plus one per cent.

It is also to waiving the option to use “average fare baskets” to raise some fares above this figure and imposing the same limit on unregulated fares, which train operators can set independently of Government policy.

In addition First Great Western has said the price of the best value standard advance purchase fares, which account for 1.1 million ticket sales every year, will be frozen.

The decision means most fares will change in line with additional fuel and running costs the train company faces, plus the per centage point requested by the Government but some fares will not rise at all.

First Great Western’s managing director Mark Hopwood said: “We have worked to limit the impact of fares changes on customers.

“Many fares across our network won't rise at all, and those that do –whether regulated or unregulated – will not rise above the formula set by Government.

“With the average cost of running a car soaring by 12 per cent in the past year, we hope our decision will encourage more people to recognise the value that train travel offers.”

Chris Irwin, from Travelwatch South West said: “It’s good news that Great Western has tried to throttle back these increases.

“Having said that, there’s no doubt that with people working with frozen wages, or at least capped to one per cent, it's a very tough time.”

Commuter Neil Bagott, 27, from Freshbrook, travels into London Paddington each week day.

He said: “It is all very well and good saying that the increases will be capped, but at the end of the day they are still increases.

“You are bombarded with being told to think of the environment and when you try to do something good - like using public transport, you are penalised.”

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