Letters, Friday, December 20, 2013

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Customers benefit from fares freeze

THE story on East Coast’s January 2014 fares changes (East Coast trains to put up rail fares from January 2, Sunderland Echo, December 18) does not fairly reflect the reality of what will be a real terms cut for many of our customers.

 The story refers to some prices as frozen. In fact, fares on 43 per cent of all journeys made by East Coast customers will be frozen next month, with fares on tickets booked in advance frozen for 64 per cent of all journeys.

 Furthermore, more than half of all East Coast fares to and from London will be frozen. This will benefit the North East economy and the many people travelling from and to the region to do business.

 Our Newcastle to London route is one of our biggest (and growing) markets for travel.

 Season tickets represent about a tenth of our business, and it is true that their price is rising by 3.1 per cent. Along with other regulated fares across the rail industry, this increase has been set by the Government.

 But even taking into account this 3.1 per cent increase, the overall rise in East Coast’s fares – of 1.21 per cent – represents a real-term price cut when you take into account the rate of inflation.

 This overall average takes into account a rise of just 0.83 per cent for the fares which East Coast has complete control over.

 East Coast’s fares freeze decision has been taken for strong commercial reasons – to encourage further passenger growth and maximise market share. It aims to be good news for customers, business and the taxpayer.

Peter Williams,

Commercial and Customer Service Director, East Coast

Living wage needed

THE story from the Northern TUC reporting a 7 per cent fall in the real value of wages since 2010 (December 13), together with that from the Rowntree Foundation noting that more than half of the 13million people living in poverty in the UK are living in a working family, must surely scupper the Chancellor’s claim in his Autumn Statement that economic growth will lead to improved living standards for all.

 The Coalition recovery has merely led to the creation of low paid, part-time and often zero-hour contract jobs, resulting in the tax payer having to subsidise employers paying less than a living wage through benefit payments to working families.

 The only way to secure a real recovery is to ensure employers pay a living, rather than a minimum wage, otherwise areas such as northern England will continue to be plagued by poverty.

 Is it any wonder one of the major North East football teams is sponsored by a pay-day lender?

Tim Dumble

South Bents

It’s a sinking ship

THE criticism from Councillor Peter Wood, the deputy leader of eight Tory Councillors, and his colleague Alan Wright, chairman of Sunderland Tories and former St Chad’s Tory Councillor, of the Independent Remuneration Panel’s review of Members’ Allowances is a smokescreen for a political party in desperation.

 Their leader, Councillor Robert Oliver, seems to have recognised this desperation and is believed to have decided to stand down at the May 22 local elections.

 Another former leader of the Tory Party in Sunderland, Lee Martin, has also announced he will not be standing when his time is up.

 Is this a case of the rats leaving a sinking ship?

 The electorate will be the ones to decide on May 22.

Keith Lakeman,

Farringdon