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Train Companies (Minimum Fares) Bill

Volume 557: debated on Friday 1 February 2013

Second Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am grateful to have so much time to speak to this Bill this afternoon. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) will probably not get too long to discuss his excellent Bill, and indeed that my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) will not get long to discuss the Bill he has so ably brought before us.

I am sure that your constituents, Mr Deputy Speaker, just like mine, are facing rising costs in train fares. A recent report by Passenger Focus found that 40% of passengers were over-paying for their train fares. In 2009, the Select Committee on Transport published an excellent report that received cross-party support, and that said that the current fare structure was cumbersome, bureaucratic and difficult to understand. I am sure that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would be as surprised as I was to learn that the current fare regulations stretch to more than 1,000 pages. That goes back to the fact that when the railways were privatised, British Rail—not the most flexible organisation—had a bureaucratic and cumbersome process.

I very much welcome the fact that the Department for Transport is now reviewing the fare process, even if, like some trains, it is going a bit slower than we would like. I have been contacted by many constituents about this issue. It is interesting to note that under the current devolution settlement, this matter is reserved to the UK Parliament, so it is great to see in his place one of the devolution Ministers, who I am sure will respond in due course. I do not know whether the Government are talking actively to the Welsh Assembly Government or the Scottish Executive about this matter.

I shall be brief, because I hope to give the Minister a chance to respond in a few minutes.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider amending the Bill to allow the issue of tickets enabling people to travel throughout the United Kingdom for a fixed price for a whole year? That system operates in Germany.

It is a very good idea, although it would be Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom, because Ireland has a separate deal with Northern Ireland.

If my constituents go to one of my local railway stations at 8 am, ScotRail is not required to tell them what is the lowest fare. If they ask, ScotRail—

The Deputy Speaker interrupted the business (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 1 March.