EAST Lancashire politicians and rail campaigners yesterday demanded better rolling stock and extra investment as train passengers were braced for fare increases of 3.5 to 4.5 per cent next year.

Hyndburn Labour MP Graham Jones and his Burnley Liberal Democrat counterpart Gordon Birtwistle said commuters should not pay more unless travelling conditions improved.

They were backed by Blackburn with Darwen transport boss Maureen Bateson and Alan Benson, secretary of the Save The East Lancashire Line Association.

Regulated rail fares are expected to rise by 3.5 per cent next year, July’s inflation figure of 2.5 per cent plus one per cent.

Regulated fares, including season tickets and off-peak inter-city returns, have increased more than inflation most years since 2004, but were capped at inflation in January.

Other fares could increase by 4.5 per cent.

The actual government announcement on rises is expected in November. The news came as the shortlist of bidders for the Northern Rail franchise, which runs East Lancashire train services, was revealed.

They are Abellio Northern Ltd (part of the current franchise consortium), Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. The decision is expected in October next year to take effect from February 2016.

Mr Benson said: “If fares are going to rise that much, rolling stock needs to improve and there has to be proper investment in the East Lancashire line.”

Mr Birtwistle said: “Fares cannot keep going up on our rail lines while the service and stock are so poor.”

Coun Bateson said: “People cannot pay these prices while the trains are sub-standard.”

Mr Jones said: “Travellers here cannot afford such rises. We cannot put up with hand-me downs from the South any longer.”

A Northern Rail spokeswoman said: “We cannot calculate actual fare rises until the final announcement. If the government allowed us, we would use better rolling stock.”

Mr Mcloughlin’s spokeman said: “No decisions on fare rises for 2015 have yet been taken. We understand people’s concerns. That is why for 2014 we reduced average rises to inflation.”

In January an adult Anytime Day Return from Colne or Burnley to Preston rose from £10.50 to £10.80.