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British Rail: Fares And Services

Volume 415: debated on Monday 8 December 1980

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2.47 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will propose to British Rail selective reductions in fares as an alternative to the proposed reductions in rail services, in the light of the successful concessions already made to old-age pensioners.

My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord's Question is, No. As I am sure he is aware, it is for the Railways Board to decide whether to offer additional reduced rate travel. Besides the concessions to senior citizens, British Rail have introduced, among other ideas, a family railcard and a new young person's railcard.

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that the Swedish State Railways, after about a year of operating selective reductions in fares, have been able to report to their Government that they have experienced a 29 per cent. increase in traffic on the cheap fare days without any increase in rollingstock, and at the same time have achieved a 9.5 per cent. increase in revenue as a result? Is he further aware that in the realm of airline fares reduced fares have also produced new traffic in otherwise marginal services?

Yes, my Lords; I did reply to a similar Question from my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing on a previous occasion. The Railways Board have considered a general reduction in fares on a number of occasions. However, they estimate that any increase in the number of passengers would not be sufficient to cover the losses involved, let alone improve their overall financial position. Instead, their policy is to offer substantial reductions in specific sectors of the market, and this appears to be very successful. There can at the moment be no question of an increased Government subsidy to help.

My Lords, can the noble Earl the Minister say whether the present very successful and excellent £1 tickets for old-age pensioners, which I should think would be useful to Members of your Lordships' House, will be continued in the New Year?

My Lords, it is a successful experiment, but it is an experiment which is a once-and-for-all scheme at the moment. It will run only until 11th December, and at present British Rail have no plans to extend it further.