FRESH train fare rises are helping to ‘drive people off the railways’, according to public transport campaigners in East Lancashire.

Rail ticket prices increased by more than twice the rate of inflation, from New Year’s Day – putting an extra 30 or 40 pence on many local journeys.

Train operators say the railway is still a ‘cheaper and quicker’ alternative to cars or buses, for comparable trips.

But the move comes after the introduction of request stops, for Huncoat, Hapton, Pleasington and Burnley Barracks stations.

And two morning and one late-night service will not call at Church and Oswaldtwistle station, under new time-tabling arrangements.

Alan Benson, secretary of STELLA (Save The East Lancashire Line Association), said: “It is driving people off the trains and on to other means.

“There used to be quite a few people in Hapton who went to Accrington for their shopping but it’s almost empty now.

“People are choosing to go by bus instead, especially if you are over 60 because it’s free. It might take longer but you don’t have to pay.”

A Northern Rail spokesman said: “From today, our fares will rise by an average of 4.8 per cent. This is the equivalent of around 10-20p per single journey and will go towards meeting the costs of providing our services and funding further improvements for our customers.

“Travelling with Northern is often cheaper and quicker than the car or the bus for similar journeys, and will remain so in 2013 and beyond. Despite these changes, the cost of our average journey will remain just £2.24.

“Money raised through fares goes on to invest in improvements to stations, trains and services.” He said they were working with the Government and the wider rail industry to drive down costs and improve services.