24 November 2011: Excitement in the office this morning as we’ve heard that Transport Secretary Greening is lobbying the Chancellor to scrap plans for further rail fare hikes.
The Times and the Independent are reporting that, ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement, Justine Greening has called on George Osborne to leave the cap on fares where it is rather than raise it to 3% above inflation this coming January. The DfT apparently wants to reduce the impact on hard-pressed commuters, and is worried that such massive fare rises will price people off trains and onto roads. This would not only create more congestion and carbon emissions, but would also result in less revenue benefits to the DfT as fare-box income could drop (see our briefing for more on this).
It is also a sign that Justine Greening wants to take a different approach to her predecessor (Jaguar-driving Philip Hammond of ‘rail is a rich man’s toy’ infamy) – and is more willing to see things from the passenger’s perspective. Although discussions are still ongoing with the Treasury, easing the burden on rail passengers would be a bit of good news to announce in next week’s otherwise bleak Autumn Statement. It would also be only fair to public transport users, since it seems the Government is also considering cancelling fuel duty rises to help drivers with high petrol costs.
Unfortunately, even if this revised plan were to go ahead, fares would still rise by an average of 6% in January – when instead, they should begin to fall against inflation to help passengers, the environment and the economy. However, it would be a big step in the right direction, and Fair Fares Now volunteers who have been working hard all year to persuade the Government to cancel the extra fare hikes should be proud that this is on the table. Watch this space for news next week.