FRIENDS of the Settle Carlisle Line say changes to the Dales Railcard from the start of the new year means journeys to work, school or colleges have been effectively removed from the discount scheme and will mean a 50 per cent in rail fares for some passengers.

From Sunday, the Dales Railcard, which costs £10 per year and saves a third on the cost of tickets, can only be used after 8.15am.

Rail operator, Northern, says the card is 'primarily designed for use by leisure-based customers' on the Settle Carlisle Line and invites commuters and others to look instead at its flexi and educational season tickets which also offer reduced fares.

But Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line (FoSCL) say some people are facing a 50 per cent increase in rail fares, plus the further 3.8 per cent inflationary increase due on most rail tickets in March, and that Northern should be instead concentrating on winning customers back.

Committee member John Carey said: "We have raised this issue in a recent meeting with Northern Trains, however there is no indication they will reverse the decision which they say is to bring the scheme into line with other similar rail cards.

"It does seem harsh when passengers have limited opportunities to get to get to work or education, the railway line representing the only means of public transport in most cases."

He added: "Without doubt, passenger numbers have reduced over the years due to various factors including the inadequate timetable, the Eden Brows landslip, industrial action in 2018/19 and the more recent temporary Covid timetable where the commuter services were replaced by a bus from Kirkby Stephen to Carlisle.

"Indeed it would be preferable to try and win this market back."

One rail user, who travels from Hellifield to Leeds for work, said she faced a 52 per cent increase in fares.

"This will impact lots of local people who commute via rail. Being part time I can't benefit from season ticket schemes. The Dales Railcard was intended to benefit local people living in the Dales but this change has been made under the idea its a "leisure" scheme," she said.

FoSCL says while there are alternative season tickets which may suit some users, they will come at an increased cost for all but regular daily journeys.

A spokesperson said: " The Dales Railcard, now in existence for 16 years, remains a valuable concession to local residents at a modest £10 a year particularly as it is usually accompanied by an attractive winter offer, shortly due to run from January until the end of March 2022. Meanwhile, Northern have said that they need to implement the changes as see the discount card as being abstractive from their full price and season ticket fares for work journeys."

A spokesperson for Northern said:“We have a range of ticket products available to support our leisure, commuter and education based customers.

“The Dales Railcard has been amended to only be valid for post 8.15am departures as it is primarily designed for leisure based customers on the Settle and Carlisle route.

“However we would encourage commuters and education users to review our flexi and educational season tickets which also offer reduced fares.

“In making this change we have consulted with various groups and stakeholders including the Friends of Settle and Carlisle Railway.”