Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Rail Fares Too High On One Of World’s Most Expensive Networks


MP Julian Huppert has warned that rail fares across Britain are “far too high” and the nation has one of the most expensive railways in the world.

He said the Liberal Democrats believe fares should fall in real terms rather than rising year on year as they did under the Labour government.

“Thanks to pressure from the Liberal Democrats inside and outside of government and arguments won by the new Secretary of State, fares rose by one per cent above inflation this year rather than the planned three per cent,” he said.

“But Liberal Democrats believe that fares should actually fall in real terms rather than rising even further above inflation as Labour did year on year. Labour policy, confirmed today, is for fares to go up above inflation year on year and that is what people should be concerned about. “

Julian was speaking during a debate in the House of Commons on rail fare increases today (Wednesday, January 11).

He told Parliament that during 13 years of Labour government fares rose by a staggering 66 per cent in cash terms.

Julian called for efficiency savings identified in the McNulty review of the railways to be passed on to passengers in the form of lower fares as soon as possible.

He welcomed the government’s £1.4 billion investment in rail saying: “That’s £400 million more than was announced for the roads – a very good rebalancing towards sustainability.

“If we’ve managed to find these funds now in difficult times just think what could have been done in the boom years,” he added. “That opportunity was missed. It is deeply regrettable that the necessary investment was not made sooner – the funding would have been higher, the decisions easier and the fares would be lower. It is a great shame that that did not happen when money was available to do it.”

And he warned that unless there is investment in the railways now the country will never achieve a cheap, efficient and sustainable transport network.

He said that rail lines had been pushed to breaking point and, as a result fares are now far too high.

Since 1980 the number of passenger journeys has doubled but government after government has invested far too little in the network and infrastructure spending has not kept up with demand, he said.

“This has put pressure on our railways and forced them into a downward spiral,” he said. “An overcrowded, inefficient and unreliable service is far more expensive to run. UK railways are up to 40 per cent less efficient than its European counterparts, despite the price of tickets. This has put fares up and reduced the level of investment available.

“The public deserves a good, reliable and affordable rail system,” he said.