Bristol rail passengers complain . . . they CANNOT pay their fares
Passengers on the Severn Beach railway line into Bristol are fed up – because they cannot pay their fares.
They say they want to support the service which has come close to being axed in the past.
But the peak-time trains often get too busy and the journey times are too short for the conductors to check tickets or take fares.
Temple Meads is the only station on the line where passengers can buy tickets. Otherwise they have to get them from a conductor on the train.
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First Great Western, which runs the service, says it has put on extra staff at busy periods and are also looking at putting in ticket machines at stations along the line.
Bristol's transport leader Dr Jon Rogers, a family GP who regularly uses the service to travel to Avonmouth, said he had complaints from people who use the line from Montpelier Station.
He said: "It is something I have spoken to First Great Western about before and I shall do so again. The council is pleased to invest in our local railway services, but First Great Western has a duty to maximise the collection of fares so that this taxpayer subsidy is not wasted."
The council pays an annual £450,000 subsidy so the train company can run half-hourly trains at peak times.
During the past year, the number of passengers who use the line has increased by nearly a third.
The number of passengers who get on the train at Severn Beach or Avonmouth are few but the carriages quickly fill up at the stations nearer Bristol. Many passengers hop on and off the train for just a few stops which means they are only on board for a matter of a few minutes. The train takes 29 minutes to travel from Avonmouth to Bristol Temple Meads, stopping at Shirehampton, Sea Mills, Clifton Down, Redland, Montpelier, Stapleton Road and Lawrence Hill.
Paul Harrod, prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Bristol North West, who raised the issue with Dr Rogers, said he was getting an increasing number of complaints from commuters who regularly use the line.
He said: "We all welcome the extra investment the council has put into the Severn Beach line so that a half-hourly service can be run. Yet no one wants to see a taxpayer subsidy continue indefinitely.
"First Great Western need to make every effort to collect fares – even when passengers are making journeys of just a few miles.
"It is a bizarre state of affairs when people are complaining about not being able to hand over money to a train company!"
First Great Western spokesman Dan Panes said: "The enormous success of the enhanced Severn Beach services has seen passenger numbers grow by up to 30 per cent on the line in the past year. Unfortunately this, coupled with the relatively short journey times on the route, makes it more difficult for our guards to check all tickets before the end of the journey.
"However, we've put on additional staff on peak services, and at some interim stations to make sure we can check the majority of tickets. We are actively looking to find funding for ticket machines at stations along the route, but these can be expensive and we need to be careful that the cost of machines does not outweigh the benefits."