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Labour vow on public ownership after 'staggering' rail fare rises

Published 01/01/2016

Labour has hit out at the Government over rises in rail fares
Labour has hit out at the Government over rises in rail fares

Commuters will be paying 25% more for rail season tickets on average since David Cameron took office, Labour has calculated.

Fares are set to rise by an average of 1.1% on Saturday and shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood said they would mean passengers being hit by a "truly staggering" rise of up to £2,000 in cash terms since 2010.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used the latest annual increase to repeat his call for the nationalisation of train services, claiming it was a "scandal" that commuters' money was being used to boost the profits of private firms and foreign state-owned operators.

The analysis compared costs on over 200 routes between when the Conservatives came to power and the new prices coming into effect on Saturday.

The highest increase found was on a Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston which will have risen by £1,984 and now costs more than £10,000 for the first time.

The biggest percentage increase identified was between Thame Bridge Parkway near Walsall and Nuneaton, where the cost of an annual season ticket will have risen by 38% since 2010.

The cost of a season ticket from Kingham, in the Prime Minister's Witney constituency, to London Paddington will have increased by 25% to £5,412.

The Birmingham to Euston route with Virgin will cost £10,012 from Saturday, with the next biggest rise in cash terms being the £1,752 hike since 2010 in the ticket from Coventry to Euston.

A season ticket from Swindon to London has increased by £1,640 since 2010 and will now cost £8,280 according to Labour's calculations.

Mr Corbyn said: "Labour is now committed to a publicly owned railway as the best way to secure a fair deal for rail passengers and taxpayers, and long term investment for a modern railway system.

"It's a scandal that fares are being increased every year to subsidise the profits of private companies and other countries' railway systems.

"The next Labour government will bring rail franchises into public ownership as soon as possible to create a properly integrated railway system with affordable fares - in the interests of both passengers and taxpayers."

Ms Greenwood said in some cases passengers were faced with increases far beyond the average of 25% for regulated fares, which include season tickets.

"Fares have risen more than three times faster than wages and passengers on some routes have also been hit by 'stealth fare rises' of up to 162%," she said.

"Out of touch ministers talk about delivering 'fair fares for comfortable commuting' but this is a world away from the overcrowded carriages and unreliable services that are increasingly characterising our network. Passengers were always told that higher fares were necessary to fund investment, but vital projects have been delayed by years and essential maintenance works have been put on hold.

"Our railways have some of the highest fares in Europe, and as investment programmes like the Government's smart ticketing projects slip, it's increasingly difficult to see how the Conservatives will deliver their manifesto commitment to introduce more flexible ticketing options.

"The truth is that our heavily fragmented railways mean that it takes years longer and costs much than it should to deliver basic improvements. The railways need reforms that could be implemented if public ownership was extended to passenger services, but ministers are persisting with a failed model for purely ideological reasons."

Rail Minister Claire Perry insisted that the Government understood concerns about the cost of travel and had taken action to halt above-inflation rises.

She said: "We are helping hard-working people with the cost of transport. We've put a stop to inflation busting increases in regulated fares until 2020.

"This will save the average season ticket holder £425 in this parliament and means earnings are outstripping rail fare increases for first time in a decade.

"Our plan for passengers is improving journeys for everyone - it's transforming the tickets people buy, how much they pay for them, the trains they sit on, how quickly they arrive and the stations they arrive in."

Regulated fares have increased by an average of 7% in real terms - taking inflation into account - between 1995 and 2015, compared with a 33% rise in unregulated standard class tickets.

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