Rail Fares Rise Yet Again – Government Must Do More


For many people, the New Year brings with it celebration and a sense of optimism for the months ahead. This year though, yet again, it also brings a significant hike in rail fares – and for commuters, that is anything but a cause for celebration.

All across the UK, fares have increased. And despite the Chancellor’s announcement that fares would be capped in line with inflation, train operators have retained the right to ‘flex’ prices by up to 2% – meaning that some fares have actually increased by an inflation-busting 5%.

The West Midlands has been hit particularly hard by fare increases since the election of the Tory-led Government in 2010. This year will be no exception. Whereas the average price rise nationally will be 2.8%, it will be 4% in the West Midlands. David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis continues to hit people in the Midlands hard.

Season ticket users have suffered particularly badly – annual tickets have gone up by twenty per cent under this Government, squeezing living standards for hard-working commuters. For example, passengers travelling from Stourbridge Junction to Birmingham Snow Hill are paying £737 a year today – that’s over 20% more than the £613 they were paying in 2010. These rises are just not fair.

It doesn’t have to be like this. A Labour Government would remove the right of train companies to ‘flex’ prices, and undertake wider ticketing reform to better support passengers. We would also give all passengers the legal right to get the cheapest ticket.

These steps – alongside a strictly enforced cap on all fares – would help make our railways more affordable for passengers and reduce the strain on household incomes. These are the steps a Labour Government would take, but voters should not have to wait until 2015. My Shadow Transport Ministerial colleagues and I will continue to press the Government for action now.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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