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    Train Fares to Rise Again

    Train TravelIn the last few days both the Times and FT have featured reports on how, from January 2009, rail passengers face the largest single fares increase since privatisation began.Unregulated fares, which include peak singles or returns, 1st class and advance purchase tickets, will rise by an average of 7%, with some fares going up by 11% - making them some of Europe's most expensive.The industry argues that the UK's pricing has far wider variations than other countries, and the average cost per distance is actually lower than many places. Train company chiefs also say the rises are necessary to pay for investment in railways.Tempting though it is, I'll resist the urge at this point to reel off a list of reasons why car hire is better than train travel. There's no denying the importance of public transport, and as improvements are made, railways will hopefully play a crucial part in helping to curb carbon emissions and reduce the weight of traffic on our roads during rush hours.But the issue of sub-standard, expensive trains is raised every year in Britain, and very little seems to change, despite the examples of immaculate service provided by other nations. Many commuters have no option but to use our rail network (whatever the price) and the promise of bigger budgets for better tracks and carriages offer little comfort at a time when most of us are already struggling financially. Leisure travellers may soon find that the disadvantages of inflated prices and delays caused by weekend engineering works outweigh the benefits. With many trains cancelled on Sundays, a long wait for a costly and uncomfortable journey isn't a great end to a trip. As always, Christmas is a particularly problematic time. If you're planning on using the railway over the festive period, check out the National Rail website for details of all cancelled, altered or reduced services. If the rail industry wants to avoid losing weekenders, holiday-makers and day-trippers to the temptation of low-cost, hassle-free car hire, it'll need to up its game quickly or risk a big drop in ticket sales next year.

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