The View from Europe with MEP Peter Skinner: The great fare hike

LAST Tuesday’s announcement that rail fares will rise 6.2% will not have come as a surprise to commuters who have been bearing the brunt of rail network cuts.

The Government’s decision to change the formula for calculating rail fare increases means that some places in Sussex could join the ranks of ‘£1000 towns’.

Commuters in places like Hastings, Eastbourne and other parts of the county face paying up to £1000 more for a season ticket to London in 2015 than they did in 2011.

The massive increase is possible because the Tory-led Government changed the formula used to calculate rail fares.

Instead of using a formula of RPI (inflation) +1%, like the previous Labour Government, they increased this to the current formula of RPI +3% after the last General Election. Even this allows the network operators a certain ‘flex’ to stretch that 3% - raising some fares as much as 8% as long as that is balanced with lower fare rises on other services.

New franchises such as the FirstGroup’s takeover from Virgin Trains in the west coast area will be permitted to raise fares even higher. For the first two years of their new contracts they will be able to raise fares at 8% plus RPI and then at 6% thereafter.

There is also the prospect of ‘super peak’ fares being introduced – bumping up costs for peak time travellers whilst operators reserve the right to make service cuts and close ticket offices. Consumers are paying more and receiving less.

Commuting is now many families’ largest house-hold bill and with little choice available in the job market commuters are left with no option but to put up with the fare increases. This is not good enough, the Government need to be doing more help to the region’s commuters.

Labour proposes returning to the RPI+1% formula we used whilst in government and an end to the ‘flex’ that so angers rail passengers. I want Labour to stand up for commuters against unfair fares.

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