'Please let us pay our train fares' Severn Beach campaigners beg First Great Western
“LET us pay our train fares,” Severn Beach commuters are pleading First Great Western amid growing fears that the Bristol line may be falsely perceived as unprofitable and scrapped.
Many would consider themselves lucky to encounter no conductor on their way to work and save a few pounds, but for Chris Smith, a software developer, and scores of other villagers, being unable to pay for their journey could lead to the only direct service from Severn Beach to Temple Meads being cancelled.
As there is no ticket machine at the village railway station, passengers hop on a train where their £2 or £3 round fare is supposed to be collected.
Yet, seeing a conductor on the line is a rare occasion and a majority of travellers go free most days.
This state of affairs has sparked concern among locals that the service will appear unprofitable to provider First Great Western and that it could eventually be scrapped, as has recently happened with some bus services in the region.
Mr Smith, 40, has therefore launched a petition asking First Great Western for better checks and is hoping to gather at least 100 signatures from fellow commuters.
The father-of-one told the Gazette: “I take the Severn Beach line every day to Temple Meads. That's a completely unmanned station with no way to get tickets. If you get off at another unmanned station, there is no way for you to pay."
"Because it is a relatively isolated community people are concerned that if the line appears unprofitable we will lose the service.
"We are asking for facilities to pay, however it would work, whether it is a machine or having more ticket collectors. The idea is to get signatures to show that there's public concern. That's the first step."
The Severn Beach line saw a significant increase in passenger numbers since improvements were made to the service in 2008. The extent of the increase is difficult to measure however as the financial evidence simply is not available, according to Pilning and Severn Beach Cllr Robert Griffin.
“Rail services are incredibly important in Severn Beach and so Chris is to be congratulated for his petition," he said.
“If First Great Western think that rail services to and from Severn Beach are not well-used because they fail to collect the fares that users are willing to pay, then that puts those services at risk of being cut. We need to do what we can to make the train company realise how popular local rail services are, which is why Chris has my staunch support.”
A First Great Western spokesman said the company was already in the process of recruiting new ticket inspector staff.
"It's not for me to comment on profitability," he said.
"We have introduced a Scholar ticket for students so that they can buy a season ticket. There are already season tickets available for commuters. We undertook inspections on the line in September and we hope we can undertake inspections on a regular basis. We are also looking to recruit additional assistant ticket examiners. Any fear that the services are going to be reduced is completely unfounded."
To view the petition visit http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/first-great-western-trains-provide-more-ticket-collectors-on-trains-on-the-severn-beach-line-2
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