It’s that time of year when the Christmas decorations come down and it suddenly its back to work for millions of commuters across the country.
It’s also the time of year when the travel price increases really hit the headlines, across buses, trains and trams commuters will be paying more to get to and from work.
Despite painful timetable problems and the cancellation of thousands of trains Northern Rail, which run services from New Moston and Mills Head stations serving Oldham West & Royton constituents, have announced a hike of 3.2% is to go ahead.
At the same time the prospect of the much promised new trains arriving by 2019 instils as much confidence as the shaking Pacer rolling stock actually arriving at the platform on time now.
The current Pacer trains were brought into service in the 1980’s as an affordable and pragmatic solution, utilising old Leyland bus designs. They were intended to be phased out of service around 13 years ago. Some of the worn-out Pacers from the UK were sent to Iran to service routes in Tehran– but they have now been replaced and taken out of service.
Because of the delays in replacing the trains, cancellations and delays there were strong calls to freeze fares to limit the insult to hard suffering passengers.
On local buses; Stagecoach have increased fares in Greater Manchester across their 750 fleet with a Dayrider and Megarider each costing 6.6% more.
FirstBus have followed with varied increases across its fleet of 600 buses with an ‘on bus’ FirstDay ticket increasing by 4.1% and the mobile ticket by 6.6%. There is a long and complex list of increases depending on the route, ticket type and purchase method with the majority seeing an increase.
FirstBus operate around 80% of routes in North Manchester (£5.00) where day tickets continue to be 42% more expensive than the special South Manchester day tickets (£3.50) offered by the same company, with single journeys on the Oxford Road ‘busiest route in Europe’ at £1.50.
In addition to the direct ticket prices, council taxpayers across Greater Manchester are covering the cost of some concessionary travel, subsidised routes and accessible transport totalling £191m* worked out by population, of which £15.6m is borne by Oldham Council Tax payers through the main council tax. In addition, £3.9m is raised through the Mayoral Precept to fund the Local Transport Plan. £27.1m is paid to operators for subsidised routes across Greater Manchester.
New powers given to the Mayor will allow for a new system of bus franchising. This would end the profit being taken from some routes into the pockets of shareholders while expecting taxpayers to fund loss making routes. Franchising will allow some of the profit to be used to keep services in areas like Oldham which has seen routes reduced. It will also allow for direct action to address the transport islands we see where many residents living districts like Royton are blocked from accessing shift jobs at Trafford Park and Manchester airport by public transport.
This will become a keen focus as Greater Manchester seeks to address air pollution.
Increases will also be seen on Metrolink with fares increasing by 5.93% overall with new ‘zonal ticketing’ being introduced from 13th January. The tram network has seen significant investment in new rolling stock and new routes recently, as well as increased capacity on the Oldham and Rochdale line following the opening of the ‘Second City Crossing’.
But there is little doubt that the increases across public transport will hit working age people the most and those in low paid jobs much harder still.
Compare this to London where bus and tube fares have been frozen, this is on top of the £1.50 journey price cap for buses and the ability to tap onto another bus within the hour for free.
*Note this Levy figure excludes the one-off adjustment repaid by local councils of £86.98m.