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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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Bus firm Stagecoach announces fares rise

Bus company Stagecoach has announced a rise in general fares in Cumbria – handing out another problem to hard-hit high street shops.

Stagecoach bus photo

The firm is freezing prices on what it calls its “best value tickets” but says other fares will go up today by an average of 3.5 per cent.

The news comes as protests continue over plans by Cumbria County Council to install meters to charge for parking in shopping streets in places such as Carlisle, Whitehaven and Penrith.

Shops and businesses have said this will hit their trade, with people opting instead for supermarkets or places where motorists can get free parking.

On the bus fares, Stagecoach said continued rising costs – including labour, energy, fuel and insurance – and reduced public sector investment in buses had led to the operator having “no choice” but to increase some fares.

Nigel Winter, managing director of Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire, said: “We know fare changes are frustrating for our passengers. That’s why we have done our best to freeze prices wherever possible and to keep fare changes to a minimum in the face of rising costs across a number of areas of our business.”

Stagecoach says there will be a freeze on its 28-day, 13-week, 52-week and Megarider Xtra tickets and changes are being made to other services, such as expanding travel zones.

Bus user Catherine Hermeston labelled the rise a “rip-off”.

“I think because everything is tough now, they should make things a little bit cheaper instead of putting everything up,” said Mrs Hermeston, of Harraby, Carlisle.

Andrew Hermeston, of Harraby, added: “Everything goes up. You have to fork out more for everything.”

Irene Campbell, of Harker, near Carlisle, uses a bus pass to travel but had strong feelings on parking charges and bus fares.

“The idea of parking charges is a disaster,” she said. “We don’t want prices going up.”

Steve Matthews, owner of Bookcase in Castle Street, Carlisle, has a petition in the shop against the parking charges.

He said on both this issue and the rise in bus fares: “It’s the drip, drip, drip thing.

“When you add them all together you are putting the balance against the high street retailers at a time when things are obviously very difficult because of the rapid changes the high street is undergoing.”

Stagecoach said two independent surveys found it continued to offer the best value bus fares of any major bus operator in the UK, with prices up to 20 per cent lower than other companies.

Mr Winter added: “We have worked hard to keep fares down for those who rely on the bus the most.

“As the cost of motoring remains high, our bus services continue to offer a greener, smarter and better value way to travel.

“We are committed to reinvesting income from fares in new vehicles and further improvements for passengers.”

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