We’ll seek value for money for rail users, Minister says, as fares go up

Transport minister Stephen Hammond
Transport minister Stephen Hammond
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The Government has claimed it understands concerns rail passengers have about the costs of fares and their impact on household budgets, pledging to help push for greater value for money for users.

As higher prices came into force yesterday, the Department for Transport added that fares passengers pay would “continue to drive forward the biggest programme of rail modernisation ever, with £38bn being invested over the next five years”.

The 3.1 per cent rise which took effect yesterday is for regulated fares which include season tickets. The increase on unregulated fares, typically off-peak leisure tickets, is not capped.

But a number, including some on the East Coast route, are going up by much less than 3.1 per cent, with the overall rise in tickets – regulated and unregulated – being 2.8 per cent.

Passenger groups have warned of the impact on customers, with some annual season tickets rising above £5,000.

An annual season ticket between Leeds and Ilkley will now cost £1,156; between Leeds and Harrogate £1,536; between Leeds and Skipton £1,792; and between Malton and York £1,600.

Speaking at King’s Cross, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “I think the public quite rightly thinks the Government should be doing more and we shall be pressing the train companies and Network Rail to provide value for money. We made extra money available so fares did not rise above the inflation rate. Labour have spoken of a cost-of-living crisis but it is they that caused it.”

Asked about suggestions the Government planned to pay train companies to convert first-class carriages into accommodation for all passengers, Mr Hammond replied that in offering new franchises the Government was looking at options for rail travel and was in negotiations with a number of train companies about a number of ideas.

“There are some new ideas we are looking at. This is one of them. Is it going to happen? It may. It may not.”

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said the fare rise was “a continuation of David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis”.

Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans said: “Commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren’t increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation.”

Consumer group Which? said the fare increases “will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze”.

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