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Rail Fares

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 23 June 2011

A distributional analysis of the impact of rail fare increases was conducted during the spending review and used to inform Department for Transport and Treasury decisions on spending review outcomes.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Is she aware of research by Passenger Focus that shows that people who buy their tickets from ticket machines pay far more expensive fares than if they used one of the staffed ticket offices? The McNulty report calls for the closure of half of all our staffed railway offices. Will she decide to reject those proposals to ensure, among many other reasons, that people get the cheapest fares they can?

The industry needs to do a lot better on its ticket machines and to ensure that passengers are properly informed about the ticket choices available. We will continue to challenge the industry to do that through our fares review and the White Paper on the future of the rail industry which we intend to publish in November.

Given the Government’s decision to increase rail fares by 3% above inflation for each of the next three years, many commuters will have to spend a fifth of their household income—more than their mortgage or rent—just to get to work. Incidentally, that would be equivalent to the Minister of State having to pay almost £20,000 a year. Instead of asking commuters to plug the hole caused by the transport budget being cut too far and too fast, will she think again?

We faced the largest peacetime deficit that we have ever faced. To continue with the biggest programme of rail upgrades in modern history, we unfortunately must ask passengers to make a contribution. The blame lies fairly and squarely with the previous Government for leaving us with a deficit and letting the cost of the railways spiral out of control.