Liberal Democrat News 24 August 2012
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
MPs oppose rail fares hike
Last week's inflation figures, which set July's RPI at 3.2 per cent, have caused huge concern amongst Liberal Democrat MPs about the prospect of regulated rails fares rising to 6.2 per cent (RPI plus three per cent) in January.
The Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Transport, Julian Huppert said:
"After Labour raised fares by a crippling 66 per cent in cash terms between 1997 and 2010, Britain has the most expensive railway network in Europe, up to 30 per cent more than our nearest competitors. Astonishingly, they still want to raise fares above inflation.
"The Coalition is, quite rightly, investing more in our railways than any government since the Victorian era in an effort to sort out the mess we inherited. But we can't just pass on the cost to commuters.
"Liberal Democrats in the Coalition, along with the Transport Secretary, managed to negotiate a RPI plus one per cent fare rise for 2012, much lower than planned by some Conservatives.
"But people are struggling to make ends meet against a backdrop of wage freezes and rising utility bills. George Osborne has to realise that people cannot be expected to pay huge rises in rail fares on top."
Julian and Lord (Bill) Bradshaw, Co-Chairs of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party Committee on Transport, wrote to the Transport Secretary over the summer, reminding her it is Liberal Democrat policy to seek a real terms cut in rail fares.
In July the Coalition announced an extra £4.2bn of infrastructure investment for UK railways, in addition to the £5.2bn already announced for 2014-19. This includes funding for the Northern Hub; electrification of Welsh railways; £700m for over-crowding in the South-East; £240m for the East Coast Main Line and a new "Electric Spine" to improve links between North, South, East and West.
In the South West of England Mid-Cornwall MP, Stephen Gilbert, has slammed the proposed increases. The price hike could see the average cost of a season ticket from St Austell to Truro, Plymouth and Exeter rise by £7.51 per month, with an annual ticket between St Austell and Exeter rising by £332.07.
In the North West, Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Sir Alan Beith was equally concerned.
"The Liberal Democrats are the only party pushing for below inflation increases," he said. "After Labour raised fares by a crippling 66 per cent in cash terms between 1997 and 2010, Britain has the most expensive railway network in Europe, up to 30 per cent more than our nearest competitors."