RAIL FARES will be frozen for four years if the public vote for a Conservative government, David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister’s promise, which would cap the cost of annual season tickets for the whole of the next parliament, has coincided with a pledge that Yorkshire’s cities would still have control over local transport, social care and housing budgets without so-called ‘metro’ mayors.
In a move to bolster support in Yorkshire, which holds a number of key marginal seats, he said the likes of Leeds and Sheffield would not lose out in devolution deals if they did not opt for elected leaders. And today’s announcement on rail fares has been hailed by the Tories as likely to save thousands of its commuters an average of £400 over four years.
Mr Cameron said: “The cost of commuting is one of the biggest household bills that hardworking families face and it is something we are determined to bear down on.
“It shouldn’t just be taken for granted that people across the country who get up early and come home late, spend a large amount of the money they earn travelling to and from work.”
Improving public transport is one of the key issues which has been outlined in this newspaper’s Yorkshire Manifesto, and the proposed freeze on rail fares comes following a series of announcements of infrastructure projects taking shape in the region.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post during a visit to Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, his first visit to the region since the official start of the election campaign last Monday, the leader rebuffed a recent warning from Lord Heseltine warned that Leeds will remain in the second tier when it comes to devolution unless it copies Manchester’s metro mayor model.
Mr Cameron said: “If areas want to come together and have a mayor then they should do so if it is right for them, but if they choose not to there will still be that availability of money and powers.
“If you take Leeds’s city deal, it is twice the size of the London city deal and represents a record level of investment. It already involves more money and more power.”
When challenged to match Ed Miliband’s pledge to bring back the role of a minister for Yorkshire in the next Government, Mr Cameron refused.
Earlier this month the Labour leader said the reinstatement of the post, held by Rosie Winterton before it was axed by the coalition, formed a key part of his devolution plans for the north.
Mr Cameron insisted that the lack of a minister for Yorkshire did not mean the importance of the region would be lost on his colleagues in Westminster in the event of a win for the Tories on May 7.
“I want all my ministers to think about Yorkshire across all areas of Government,” he said.
“It’s good that we have a housing minister from Yorkshire but I want the whole cabinet to be pushing for Yorkshire and building a strong future for it.”
His remarks came as new polling from Survation showed Labour enjoying a four-point lead over the Tories.