Brakes must be put on rail fare rises
Rail fare increases – announced in August – came into effect yesterday providing passengers with an unwelcome start to the New Year. The average rise is around 4 per cent, a figure based on a Government formula of retail price index inflation plus 1 per cent.
However, some fares may have risen by as much as 9 per cent.
And prices have in general been increasing above inflation since 2004, which, according to The Independent, has left England with the most expensive train tickets in Europe.
Much of the reason for these soaring costs is down to the previous and present governments and their decision to increase fares to pay for improving the rail system.
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The present Government has added to the burden on passengers by deciding that a greater proportion of the bill should be met by train users instead of it being evenly split with the general taxpayer.
However, Labour says David Cameron has also caved in to the train companies by allowing them to increase some fares above the "cap" of around 4 per cent.
It says Labour would strictly enforce the fare cap on every route and restore a ban on train companies imposing higher increases.
Meanwhile, transport minister Norman Baker says the Government is determined to reduce the cost of running the railways in the long term and end the era of above-inflation fare rises.
It is not clear, however, when this might happen.
Our view is that these above-inflation increases have to stop right now.
We support the investment taking place in the rail network and we understand why the Government feels that rail users should foot more of the bill than the general taxpayer.
Enough is enough, however. There is a real danger that rail travel will become unaffordable for many people.
It is in the interests of the country as a whole to encourage people out of their cars and on to trains. This cannot be achieved if rail fares continue to rise in this way.
We appreciate that this a complex issue but the Government needs to look again at its strategy.