Tory MPs urge George Osborne to curb rail fare rises
Published: 20th Aug 2012 11:28:02
Conservative MPs are calling on George Osborne to stop rail firms increasing commuter fares by up to 11% in England.
The increases, due to come in next January, follow a spike in the rate of inflation used to set ticket prices.
But commuter belt Tory MPs say the price rises, meant to fund rail improvements, will deter people from working and harm economic growth.
Labour accused the MPs of "hypocrisy" for failing to oppose the rises in a Commons vote earlier this year.
The Retail Prices Index (RPI) of inflation is used to calculate season ticket rises, with operators in England allowed to bring in an annual average increase of RPI plus 3%.
RPI unexpectedly surged to 3.2% in July, the month on which next year's rises are based.
This means season ticket prices in England are set to go up by an average of 6.2% in January.
If MPs in England are asked whether they're happy with a 6.2% train fare rise that will hit the pockets of their cash-strapped constituents, few are likely to say yes.
And a number of Tories in the London commuter belt have said they'll try and persuade the chancellor to halt the fare hike.
Since 2004, rail fares have risen at a rate of RPI + 1%. An increase to RPI + 3% was due to kick in this year but George Osborne deferred the rise in last year's autumn statement. Will he do it again?
There's certainly some political pressure on him. But I don't think this a subject the Treasury will reopen. The big investment in the railways has to be paid for at a time of squeezed public finances.
The chancellor could ask his complaining MPs what they'd prefer instead: a cut to investment, higher government borrowing or putting more of the cost onto taxpayers? For now, it's rail users who are taking the strain and that's not likely to change.
In addition, rail companies are allowed extra flexibility, so some fares can rise by as much as 11%, as long as this is balanced out with smaller increases elsewhere.
Mark Reckless, Tory MP for Rochester and Strood, in Kent, home to many commuters, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this would end up costing some workers hundreds of pounds extra a year.
He said: "Many of my constituents have to get up at five or six o'clock in the morning to take the coach to London because they cannot afford the train.
"Others have been priced out entirely because they were spending almost all their take-home income paying for a season ticket just to get to jobs in London.
"That's counter-productive because we want to encourage people to work hard and provide for their families rather than stay at home on welfare."
Mr Reckless added: "These RPI linkages don't really make sense when wages are going up, if at all, far less than inflation... That just discourages work."
Last year, Chancellor George Osborne intervened to cap average season ticket rises to a rate of RPI plus 1%, after protests from passenger groups.
Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, Kent, wants a repeat of this next January.
She told the BBC: "Fare increases of RPI plus 3% are coming at a time when household budgets are incredibly hard-pressed.
"A lower increase would mean there is still the investment needed for improvements but at a more proportionate cost for commuters."
In the longer term we are determined to get rid of these above-inflation fare rises all together”
Last year Labour put forward a parliamentary motion to set a permanent cap on season ticket rises of RPI plus 1%, but this was defeated.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "It is complete hypocrisy for Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs to claim to their constituents that they oppose 11% rail fare rises when they failed to vote against them in Parliament.
"The government has put the wrong people first by caving in to pressure from the private train companies and allowing them to hike rail tickets by up to 11% every year for three years."
Rail minister Theresa Villiers has said the fare increases are necessary in the short-term to achieve the government's goal of bringing down the cost of running railways and making services less dependent on taxpayers.
"In the longer term we are determined to get rid of these above-inflation fare rises all together," she said.
The government also insists the improvement of services, such as electrification and better carriages, necessitates higher fare increases in the short term.
RPI has fallen consistently since September last year, when it peaked at 5.6%.
In June, it stood at 2.8%, and many analysts expected the rate to fall further in July, but it increased to 3.2%.
Fares in Scotland they will go up by RPI plus 1% next year. Wales has yet to set a figure. Northern Ireland's train fare increases are not directly linked to the rate of inflation.
At 19:59:30 in HeadlinesIsrael has expressed regret over the death of a Jordanian judge, who was shot by Israeli soldiers at the Allenby Bridge border crossing on Monday.
At 19:58:51 in EnglandA man who ran a scam operation selling counterfeit car parts on the internet has been jailed for 20 months.
At 19:43:53 in EnglandThe Conservative party in Derby has asked the police to probe allegations of electoral fraud in the city.
At 19:36:02 in SportIreland and Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien is set to miss the rest of the season after an infection complicated his recovery from shoulder surgery.
At 19:25:03 in WalesThe role of keeping Britain's estate agents in check is set to change in the next few weeks - with some powers handed over to a Welsh council.
At 19:23:20 in HeadlinesA former Washington DC primary school teacher has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for child pornography.
At 19:21:56 in SportManu Tuilagi has been named in an England squad for the first time in a year after recovering from injury.
At 19:11:36 in SportVincent Kompany says Manchester City can take encouragement from their 2012 Premier League title as they look to recover a 2-0 deficit in Barcelona.
At 19:04:39 in BusinessItaly's biggest bank, UniCredit, has reported a record annual loss of 14bn euros (£11.7bn; $19bn) and said it plans to cut 8,500 jobs.
At 19:03:46 in ScotlandThere is concern that inventors and designers based in Scotland could lose out because of Europe-wide changes to patent laws.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Tory MPs urge George Osborne to curb rail fare rises [Online] (Updated 20th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1447114/Tory-MPs-urge-George-Osborne-to-curb-rail-fare-rises [Accessed 11th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
The Welsh exams board WJEC has launched an internal review after concerns were raised over results for a new GCSE in English taken in January.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
MPs have voted through a controversial measure that gives England's health secretary sweeping powers to close local hospitals, even if they are performing well.
Ireland and Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien is set to miss the rest of the season after an infection complicated his recovery from shoulder surgery.
Director Lynne Ramsay has settled a legal dispute with the producers of the film Jane Got a Gun, which she quit days before shooting began last year.
Italy's biggest bank, UniCredit, has reported a record annual loss of 14bn euros (£11.7bn; $19bn) and said it plans to cut 8,500 jobs.