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Rail Fares

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 10 January 2019

1. What recent progress his Department has made on simplifying the fare structure for rail services. (908471)

It is vital that passengers feel confident that they are buying the most appropriate ticket for their journey, which was why we committed in our manifesto to review rail ticketing, removing complexity and perverse pricing. The rail review will take a longer-term look at how the railway can support a fares system that delivers value for money for both passengers and taxpayers.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Last April, the then rail Minister wrote to me to say that he was conducting a review of fare simplification on the Brighton main line. In oral questions that month, he said that the review would be completed “rapidly”. Only the context of this Government’s handling of rail fares could the best part of a year be called rapid. When will that review be completed and when will fares be simplified on the Brighton main line?

My predecessor undertook to review the matter and remove some of the anomalies, and that work has already started, including in the fare review we saw earlier this year and the big piece of work reviewing how pay-as-you-go can be extended across the south-east. There has been a piecemeal approach where it has gone into Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and parts of Surrey, and we are taking a strategic approach to it and that will be happening in the first half of this year.

Devolution to Greater Manchester offers enormous opportunities to simplify rail fares across the area. What has so far been achieved in that regard, and what opportunities have been taken to broaden out the ease of using different modes of public transport across Greater Manchester on a single ticket?

That is very much a question for the Williams review of devolution structures in our transport sector. The principle of my hon. Friend’s question, which is about making things more convenient for passengers through smart ticketing, is absolutely right. If we make things easier for passengers, they will be more likely to use the services. That is a key question for the Williams review, and I will make sure that my hon. Friend’s question is fed through to Mr Williams.

Fares have gone up everywhere, including for Hull Trains, which has been particularly difficult for residents of Hull to swallow because the reliability of the trains has been so poor. I will offer the Minister a gift this morning—an opportunity to be a hero cost-free. I would like him to contact First Group and put extreme pressure on it to give Hull Trains a new train six months earlier than promised. If he can do that, it will improve reliability—and I am not even asking him for any more money.

That is quite unusual, to be honest, as we have a lot of requests for money. I will look into what the hon. Lady says and get back to her.