Fylde MP blasts Virgin Rail for ‘ripping off’ West Coast Main Line passengers

MP Mark Menzies at Preston Train Station

Fylde MP Mark Menzies, a member of the Transport Select Committee, has blasted Virgin Rail for ‘ripping off’ passengers at busier train stations – by charging them more for their tickets than those travelling further distances.

Virgin Rail’s pricing policy means commuters travelling from Mr Menzies’ Fylde constituency to London on the West Coast Main Line face paying more than three times the cost of passengers some 20 minutes and one stop further away from the capital.

Tickets on January 5 were priced £46.60 from Lancaster to London, and £145 from Preston on the same train – despite the fact Lancaster is 20 miles further away on the same service.

And a peak hours return trip to the capital from Lancaster on January 10 leaving at 6.58am and returning at 5.57pm, costs £93.20 – but £250 for the same service for those who board the train at Preston, even though it is nearer.

Mr Menzies said: “At a time when rail fares are going up and up, this is beyond the pale for commuters. I find it abhorrent.

“It’s about milking rail users. They’re ripping people off and I’m not having it.

“As a member of the Transport Select Committee, I’m not standing to the side and watching something that is continually hurting my hard-working constituents who need to travel to London, and those from London needing to travel to the North.

“It is a very poorly-thought out pricing policy and it must stop now.

“Passengers are being charged a premium to travel some 20 fewer miles on the railway, and prevented from travelling at peak times.”

And Virgin Rail bosses won’t let anyone book from Lancaster and use Preston – fining those who try to do so.

One of Mr Menzies constituents, Tim Chadwick from Ansdell, bought a Lancaster to London ticket and got on the train at Preston, sitting in the seat he had reserved. But he was hit with a £172 charge for a new ticket, was accused of fraud, and threatened with arrest by the conductor.

Mr Chadwick, who works in the banking sector, said: “The whole thing is blatant profiteering from Virgin Rail as they are offering nothing extra and are in fact charging disproportionally more for less of a service.

“It’s absolutely criminal that they can increase prices and change off peak times for one demographic over another.

“The conductor had the cheek to tell me that they regularly have people who get on at Preston then go to Lancaster to come back so they know they are ‘taking the proverbial’. Can you imagine if a phone operator charged different prices for people living in different areas using the same product? There would be an outcry.”

And passenger Chris Metcalfe, from Kirkham, added: “I bought a return ticket to Lancaster, and a Lancaster to London ticket, but still got pulled at Preston Station when I alighted early.

“They were telling me I had to get off at Lancaster and get the train back, despite the fact I had bought the ticket from Lancaster to Preston to cover the cost. So I’d paid for the travel, opted not to take it, and they were telling me that’s fraud.

“It’s a joke. Buses charge you more for the longer your journey is. That’s sensible.”

Mr Menzies is now meeting with Virgin Rail to discuss the pricing issues and will be raising the issue in Parliament.

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