‘Unfair’: Welwyn Garden City’s reaction to government rail fare proposals

PUBLISHED: 17:38 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:24 05 December 2018

We spoke to several people in Welwyn Garden City who say the proposed fares freeze doesn't go far enough. Pictures: Mia Jankowicz/Danny Loo

We spoke to several people in Welwyn Garden City who say the proposed fares freeze doesn't go far enough. Pictures: Mia Jankowicz/Danny Loo

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Welwyn Garden City folk have reacted strongly to a government body’s recommendation that only people who held a season ticket in 2018 should get a discount on next year’s rail fares hike.

Sujata Dhakan, who commutes to Welwyn Garden City from London every day, wants to see a fares freeze for all tickets. Picture: Mia JankowiczSujata Dhakan, who commutes to Welwyn Garden City from London every day, wants to see a fares freeze for all tickets. Picture: Mia Jankowicz

In a publication released on Tuesday, December 4, the Transport Select Committee released scathing comments about the levels of service that passengers were subjected to during Govia’s may timetable roll-out.

READ MORE: Report released on rail chaos which affected Govia Thameslink passengers

The report discussed the ever-increasing calls for a rail fares freeze in 2019, a move backed vociferously by rail user groups as well as Welwyn Hatfield’s MP Grant Shapps.

The Committee urges the rail industry and Government to do what they can to keep fares low - the increase for 2019 is currently expected to be 3.1 per cent.

Michael Ebbels thinks a fares freeze on daily tickets would be fairer on people on short contracts. Picture: Mia JankowiczMichael Ebbels thinks a fares freeze on daily tickets would be fairer on people on short contracts. Picture: Mia Jankowicz

They added: “We further recommended that 2018 Northern, TransPennine Express, Thameslink and Great Northern season ticket holders receive a discount, equivalent to any increase announced in December 2018, on renewed season tickets in 2019.”

In practice, the discount being called for would amount to a fares freeze - but specifically only for season ticket holders who suffered in 2018.

Some Welwyn Hatfield rail users we spoke to felt this was unfair.

Sujata Dhakan, who spends £18 a day travelling from London to work in the Kiosk newsagent in the Howard Centre, didn’t always buy a season ticket in 2018. “Season tickets are for people who have permanent jobs, but for daily people, what about them? It’s not fair.

“They should think about everyone.”

As the Kiosk is next to the entrance to the station, Sujata has seen first-hand how the timetable chaos affected people. “We get so many complaints from customers, we hear them morning and evening,” she said, adding that she believes it puts people off visiting Welwyn Garden City.

Sujata, who finishes around 6pm, has at times got home as late as 9pm or 10pm herself.

Michael Ebbels is retired, but when he was working in Watford he didn’t think it was worth getting a season ticket. “It’s a bit unfair,” he said of the Transport Committee suggestion.

Wendy Rankin, whose son commutes by train to London, thinks a fares freeze is the right thing to do. Picture: Mia JankowiczWendy Rankin, whose son commutes by train to London, thinks a fares freeze is the right thing to do. Picture: Mia Jankowicz

Wendy Rankin, whose son commutes to London from Harpenden daily, said it was “absolutely right” to suggest a fares freeze, but thinks it’s fairer to offer that to all ticket-holders due to the poor levels of service in the last year. “For example, there was a signal problem just last Friday,” she said.

Liberal Democrat councillor Malcolm Cowan is also leader of the local rail user group which has long demanded a fares freeze, and said: “As the compensation saga showed, not all regular travellers have season tickets, and I am calling for fares to be frozen on this line for all passengers – we all suffer the chaos.”

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps said he “strongly supports” the committee’s proposal. “Even though I doubt we’ll win this concession, I will be arguing the case with ministers,” he said.

Lib Dem councillor and Rail User Group spokesperson Malcolm Cowan wants a fares freeze for all.Lib Dem councillor and Rail User Group spokesperson Malcolm Cowan wants a fares freeze for all.

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