PASSENGERS, transport chiefs and unions in Bolton have criticised a rise in rail fares.

Prices rose above inflation for the 10th year in a row yesterday, with hikes of an average of 3.9 per cent across England, Wales and Scotland.

Transport minister Norman Baker said rises were needed to help fund what he called “the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th century”.

In Bolton, a weekly season ticket has risen from £22.70 to £23.70, an increase of 4.41 per cent.

A peak time return from Bolton to Manchester Piccadilly has risen from £5.90 to £6.10, an increase of 3.39 per cent, and an off peak single has gone up from £3.60 to £3.80, a rise of 5.56 per cent.

Bolton transport campaigner Preva Crossley said: “It can have a big effect on commuters because there’s not a lot of money around but people have still got to use public transport.

“We need more trains on the tracks.

“Why should a person have to pay for a ticket for the train but not be able to get a seat?

“We need better rolling stock, but we also need more barriers at stations so people don’t get away with not paying.”

Cllr David Chadwick, the borough’s representative on the Transport for Greater Manchester committee, said: “Regardless of what the rise is, it’s going to cause problems.

“It’s the fault of successive governments — I’m not just blaming the coalition.

“It’s much cheaper in Europe. I was in Belgium and it’s dirt cheap to travel between major conurbations.”

Joan Pritchard-Jones, adult services convenor for public service union Bolton Unison, said: “In Bolton our members are in the third year of a pay freeze and are already bracing themselves for a massive hike in gas and electric bills, in some cases 11 per cent.

“Many people rely entirely on public transport to get around.

“Big increases in rail fares will be a massive blow, particularly to those who commute to and from work.”

A Northern Rail spokesman said: “We understand that these are difficult financial times for our customers, which is why we will continue to work with the government and the wider rail industry to drive down the cost of running the railway to provide better long-term value for money for passengers and taxpayers.”