Ministers could ease rail fare hikes to help Christmas passengers as prices double

The cheapest single adult off-peak ticket from London to York has jumped from £23 on December 16 to £47 on December 23, shooting up to £115 on Sunday December 27, when the number of tickets is further restricted due to engineering works on the East Coast Main Line. 

On Tuesday, the travel watchdog Transport Focus backed calls to scrap more expensive peak fares over the Christmas “bubble” period, a move that has already been adopted by a few operators.  

Anthony Smith, the Transport Focus chief executive, said: “Passengers need to be able to plan travel with confidence and will expect fares to be reasonable in the Christmas window. “Removal of peak fares on Avanti services is a welcome step for passengers. We encourage other operators to consider this.”

Rail industry sources told The Telegraph that operators were considering removing some peak fares, but that there are concerns that introducing flat fares could make it harder to maintain social distancing as people funnel onto trains at popular travel times.

The source said: “This is being looked into, but there is an awareness as what we don’t want to do is remove certain fares that increase crowding at different points. There are unintended consequences with this that affect how demand is driven.”

Meanwhile, the latest annual train journey figures, released on Tuesday, showed that last year’s two least-visited rail stations doubled their footfall, with enthusiasts thought to be seeking them out.

The Office of Rail and Road said Denton, in Greater Manchester, and Stanlow and Thornton, in Cheshire, saw their number of visitors jump last year to 92 and 82 respectively, up from 46 the year before, when they were named the country’s joint least visited stations.

The new least-visited station was unveiled as Berney Arms in Norfolk, which saw only 42 passengers come through last year due to service closures caused by engineering works.

The figures, which covered the period from April 2019 to March this year, showed that overall train journeys dipped 11 percent to 394 million due to the pandemic affecting the first three month of the year. 

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