Northern Rail have responded to Government pressure to increase revenue by raising fares for afternoon/evening journeys.
From September 8th passengers will need to buy more expensive “Anytime” tickets to travel in Greater Manchester between 16.01 and 18.29. The restrictions apply to all travel – not just the direction of peak flow – and also extend beyond the Greater Manchester boundary to a confusing selection of other routes.
At Walkden we are perhaps fortunate that the popular 18.30 service into Manchester leaves just one minute after the new “peak” time so still remains eligible for off-peak tickets.
However, if you make an evening trip into Manchester from Walkden on the 16.29, 16.49, 17.29 or 17.52 services you will need to buy a £6.80 Anytime Return after Sept. 8th, a 76% increase over the £3.90 Off Peak return.
For passengers returning to Walkden after a day in Manchester, the 16.14, 16.46, 17.17, 17.47, and 18.14 departures from Victoria will all be unusable unless you buy an Anytime ticket.
To add to travellers’ misery, the popular Cheap Evening Return tickets will also scrapped doubling the evening return fare from Walkden to Manchester from £1.95 to £3.90 – so much for the government wanting to encourage people off the roads !
The move is bound to be deeply unpopular with passengers who have faced above-inflation fare increases for many years, and has drawn criticism from consumer protection groups like Passenger Focus and Travel Watch NorthWest.
As well as hitting people’s wallets the changes seems sure to introduce more yet confusion and difficulty for Northern’s front-line staff who will have the unenviable job of enforcing the increases.
The question should also be asked whether the move will even achieve its objective as on many routes (Walkden to Manchester included) bus services are available that will offer a more frequent and – after these price rises – cheaper alternative .