Rail fares are too high
Since the last Government introduced above inflation rail fare rises in 2003, the story has been the same every year: higher prices for over-crowded services. Astonishingly, even now they’re in opposition, the Labour Party still want fares to go up by 1 per cent above inflation. Unsurprisingly, Conservatives like Osborne want to punish people even more with RPI+3% rises.
The Lib Dems and I want rail fares to come down in real terms – they should go up by no more than 1 per cent below inflation. Coalition is about compromise, so we agreed to an interim cap of RPI+1 for 2012; in between our position and that of the Tories.
But, without continued pressure on the Treasury, fares could go up at the higher rate, to a level which would be simply unacceptable for commuters in Cambridge and across the country.
Tomorrow, the July inflation figures will be published. These are the figures which the fare rises will be based on. I will be making clear that rail fares cannot be allowed to go up to the level some Tories are suggesting.
In addition, I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Financial Times covered my letter here (paywall):
For far too long, Government’s have mismanaged our railways and passed on the cost to commuters. That is why our railways are 40% less efficient and 30% more expensive than European counterparts. Tickets went up 66 per cent in cash terms between 1997 and 2010 – 13% in real terms.
To its credit, the Coalition is investing more in our railways than at any time since the Victorian era. There is no better way to reduce fares in the long term than by making our services more efficient, and increasing the number of users.
But we can’t just pass these costs on to rail users. Family budgets are very tight, people need to be able to find work and get to interviews, and nobody should be punished for using public transport.
I hope the Treasury will think again before punishing commuters in Cambridge.