Rail fares in England and Wales are to rise this week as part of the biggest ticket price hike in nearly a decade.
In what is the biggest rise since 2013, according to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), and in what is believed to be in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure on inflation for last July, plus one percentage point, the cap on rail fare rises has increased from today, and it means ticket prices could go up by as much as 3.8%.
This means, as an example, that a year-round season ticket between Liverpool and Manchester goes up by £105 to £2,865.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, most rail fares – excluding season tickets, which are regulated by the government – were controlled by train operators, but those have since come under state control.
This was after billions of pounds were pumped into the industry to keep services running.
Addressing the price hike, a Department for Transport spokesperson told Sky News: “We have protected passengers by delaying these fare rises by two months and, even then, opting for a figure well below current inflation rates, but we must now look to recoup some of the £14 billion which was spent to keep vital services running throughout the pandemic in a way that is fair for all taxpayers.”
The DfT says that despite price rises, it hopes it will still “be able to encourage people back on to trains” whilst “funding the necessary improvements and unprecedented investment that will benefit all those who use our railways.”
This week’s price hike has been criticised as “counterproductive” by campaigners and various transport groups.
Bruce Williamson of the campaign group Railfuture called the rises to fares “eye-watering” and said the government was “stoking the fire of the cost of living crisis”, adding that it was time to stop linking rail fares to the RPI inflation index.
“Inflation this year is likely to hit 8%, so unless the government changes the formula, the average rail traveller will be bankrupted next year,” he said.
Paul Tuohy – Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport – said: “This fare rise couldn’t come at a worst time and will simply add to the cost-of-living crisis. We need to get people back into workplaces, eating in town centre cafes and shopping on their lunch breaks to help kickstart the economy.”
The government has also received criticism.
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “This brutal Tory fare hike will be a nightmare for millions of passengers”, while Manuel Cortes – the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association – said that raising rail fairs post-pandemic is “a staggeringly stupid move by this Tory government”.
“It’s almost as though ministers want to force people off our railways and into cars in an effort to speed up our climate crisis,” he added.
Featured Image – Wikimedia Commons
Police arrest four men and shut down ‘incredibly dangerous’ cannabis farm in Salford
Police have shut down a suspected cannabis farm in Salford today, arresting four men.
Officers swooped on the property on Arthur Street in Swinton after finding evidence that the house was being used to grow cannabis plants.
The farm has been described as ‘incredibly dangerous’ to other occupants in the area.
Three rooms in the house were full of plants growing, with a huge amount of wiring surrounding them that posed a fire hazard.
The four men detained by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Salford Neighbourhood Team were subsequently arrested on suspicion of involvement in the production and supply of cannabis and remain in police custody for questioning.
Sergeant Peter MacFarlane said: “Locating a cannabis farm is a great result for the team who are gathering intelligence and working hard to crackdown on drug-related crime across Salford.
“Farms of this nature are also incredibly dangerous to other occupants in the area. The building itself is still being made safe due to the amount of wiring around the plants. Criminals running these types of enterprises have no regard for public safety and in these conditions, an electrical fault from bad wiring could easily start a fire and endanger lives.
“The arrests and seizures then go someway towards disrupting the supply of illegal drugs and the criminality that comes with it, and will also make our communities safer.
“This operation was intelligence led and a huge part of our intelligence comes from members of the public sharing information with us. If you have suspicions about a crime taking place please report it so we can take positive action and bring those responsible to justice.”
You can make a report by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report via the LiveChat function on GMP’s website: www.gmp.police.uk
Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Featured image: GMP
‘Groundbreaking’ new app to help get homeless people into work launches in Manchester
Homeless families across Manchester are set to benefit from a “groundbreaking” new service that gives them access to employment support.
With the ultimate aim of helping homeless people move out of temporary accommodation and into their own homes, Manchester City Council has announced a new pilot partnership with Beam – a social enterprise that fundraises on behalf of homeless people and connects them with a supportive online community.
Through Beam’s “innovative” app-based platform, homeless people can raise money for items that often end up being financial obstacles to them moving into a permanent home, whether than be funding equipment or training to help them secure stable and financially-viable employment, or towards a rental deposit, moving van, or other homeware essentials, and everything in between.
Donations come from people in the local community, and are shared out equally between participants, so that everyone reaches their fundraising target within an average of 17 days.
Having helped more than 1,300 homeless people “achieve their goals” since being founded in 2017, Beam isn’t just about funding, as it also has a team of caseworkers who provide one-to-one help with employment to those in need.
The caseworkers also lend a hand with searching for properties online, communicating with landlords, and booking house viewings, while Beam also works with a network of vetted landlords to help people find a home
The initiative also provides further support for at least six months after moving.
Over the next year, Manchester City Council says its pilot partnership with Beam will initially support 25 families who are living in temporary accommodation in the region, and move them into their own private rental homes.
Residents can be referred to the scheme by the Council’s housing teams, as well as other local services, and each person is assigned a caseworker from Beam, who then supports them on their journey into stable housing.
“No one chooses homelessness voluntarily,” admitted Councillor Joanna Midgley, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council.
“And when it happens, it can be devastating, which is why we are looking at a range of solutions to help people secure affordable and decent homes in Manchester.
“Our new partnership with Beam is an innovative approach to improve people’s life chances, supporting them, where possible, into sustainable jobs allowing them to move out of temporary accommodation and into their own homes.