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Virgin holds up hands over rail-fare price rises.

Virgin Trains bosses admitted they got it wrong after they came under fire for massive increases in fares on the West Coast Main Line.

MPs condemned the decision to push up the price of a ticket from Birmingham to Carlisle from pounds 71 to pounds 124.

And they won a pledge from Virgin's commercial director Graham Leech that the company would think again about the fare increase.

The promise came at a heated committee meeting in the House of Commons, as the Transport Select Committee conducted an inquiry into fare increases.

Mr Leech was one of a number of executives from the rail industry giving evidence to the inquiry.

He admitted that many peak-time fares had increased by between six and seven per cent, far above the rate of inflation.

But he insisted that most passengers were actually paying less than they used to - because they were buying cheaper tickets, such as off peak tickets.

He said: "In fact, the price paid by the average passenger on the West Coast Main Line is less than in January last year.

"What is happening is that more and more people are buying cheaper tickets, because we are making them more available."

Ken Purchase (Lab Wolverhampton North East) highlighted the price of a ticket between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and asked for an explanation for the increase.

Mr Leech said: "We are aware there are problems with them. That was clear from the feedback from our front-line staff.

"We will be making changes there."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 5, 2009
Words:250
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