SHOPPERS and workers in High Wycombe have been dealt another blow after bus company Arriva revealed it was raising its fares next week.

Arriva's announcement follows Wycombe District Council's controversial proposal to hike up charges in some key town centre car parks.

One of the reasons for the parking increase is that the council wants to relieve road congestion by encouraging more people to use the buses.

The news that bus fares were also going to rise shocked Peter Jennings, 71, from Fingest Grove in Lane End, who was one of 500 people who backed this newspaper's petition to try to persuade the council to ditch the parking increases.

He said yesterday: "I think it's ridiculous. If you want people to use the buses you don't put the bus prices up.

"They'll just kill it off altogether and stop people using the bus."

Arriva, which runs bus routes across the Wycombe district, says it is having to pass the rising costs of fuel, insurance and drivers' wages on to its customers.

The company says the rise in fares, between five pence and 20 pence on each route, is the first since 2005 but that it has now reached the point where there is no option but to put prices up.

The rise will apply to single and return fares, but not to daily, weekly or monthly tickets. Posters will be going up this week informing passengers of the change.

Spokesman Brian Drury said: "Since 2005 we have faced significant rises in costs but we've held our prices and in fact we've reduced some of our costs."

But Tory district councillor David Cox, a former deputy leader, said yesterday of the rise: "Well that sounds a bit silly because I wasn't even aware that Arriva had that intention. To coincide with the fact that we're trying to encourage people to try to use the buses, that's not very helpful."

He added: "It's unfortunate that Arriva have chosen this time to put the fares up. However, they have got their business to run and they have got to make their things work for them, just like we have got to make Eden a success."

Meanwhile, the consultation period for the council's proposed parking increases ended yesterday.

The Bucks Free Press marked the end of the consultation period by handing over the names of the readers who backed our campaign, which was titled Let us park, Mrs Clarke'.

The newspaper hopes the campaign will persuade council leader Lesley Clarke to do a U-turn. But if she doesn't, the increases will come into effect next month.

Prices in some car parks will rise by almost 100 per cent, although there will be new cheap all-day parking just outside the inner ring of the town.

Yesterday, we handed over our petition to Caroline Hughes, head of environment at WDC. It contained the names of hundreds of people who wrote to us opposing the hikes.

WDC says the price rises are necessary to stop High Wycombe from grinding to a halt when the £250 million Eden project opens in March. It also hopes it will encourage more people onto public transport to free up spaces for the 200,000 shoppers a week the centre is hoped to bring into the town.