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Response to Philip Hammond's statement on higher rail fares

28 June 2010
Government mustn’t declare war on rail passengers, warns Campaign for Better Transport

Responding to Philip Hammond’s statement in today’s Financial Times, in which he indicated that train fares could be allowed to rise much faster than inflation, Campaign for Better Transport’s Campaigns Director Richard Hebditch said:

“The Government has only just announced that it was postponing plans to relieve overcrowding and is instead thinking about just taking out seats to cram more people in. Now, this week, they’re threatening to charge us even more for travelling by train. Philip Hammond seems to think that he needs to justify his claim that he was ending a non-existent war on the motorist by embarking on a new war on rail passengers.

“The Lib Dems and Conservatives must stick to what they agreed in the Coalition Agreement and introduce fair pricing for rail – not go down the route of milking passengers for every penny they can to make up for cuts elsewhere in the Department for Transport’s budget.

“Campaign for Better Transport has been campaigning against fare increases and 159 MPs in the last Parliament backed us. Those MPs recognised that their constituents are fed up with paying more and more to travel by train. We’ll be mobilising those people who’ve backed our campaign to show the Lib Dems and Conservatives that even bigger fare rises than those introduced under Labour will not be acceptable.”

Notes to Editors

UK rail prices are already the highest in Europe (see Passenger Focus research on comparison rail fares). Since 1997, train fares have risen in real terms by 13%, while the cost of motoring has fallen by 14% and the price of one-way flights from UK airports has, on average, dropped by 35%.

Most UK fares (including walk-on fares and season tickets) are regulated by government. The formula that used to be used regulated fare increases at 1% below the RPI inflation rate, but this was switched to RPI+1% in 2004.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said in the Financial Times that he hoped to hold on to the current formula for above inflation fare rises for regulated rail tickets, but that fares could instead be allowed to rise much faster than inflation.

Campaign for Better Transport research (Smarter Cuts: Making the right cuts in transport spending) estimated that a change in the formula could lead to prices increasing by 33% over the next Parliament.