Monday, 16 January 2012

Rail fare increases - Commuters lose out at PMQs

I was pleased that I was able to sit and watch PMQs at work last Wednesday, even more pleased as the lead topic brought up by Ed Miliband was rail fare rises.

Regular readers will no that I, as a suffering commuter am opposed to such hefty rises and I fear a time when the poor hard working commuter will be priced off the networks altogether. I honestly think that cross party cooperation is needed for this and hoped to see some serious debate happen and some head way.

My hopes were soon dashed... as I should have probably feared.

We entered a tit for tat round of who was to blame for the current rise in fares.

The Process of the rise was put in by the last Labour Government.

The rise was too hefty for commuters.

Autumn Statement cut the rise from RPI +3 to RPI +1.

We cut the rise - You reinstated it.

You only did it for one year - election year.

No we did it permanently.

No you didn't...

No answers were reached.

Right before I go on lets get the "Blame" out the way.

The Conservatives privatised the railways and made a bit of a hash of it.
Labour brought in RPI +3 formula with a variation of 5% on that so long as the average increase was a rise of 8% across the network and all the current Rail companies have that in their contracts with the Government and the Coalition is tied to this variance ruling.
Labour did bring in a change for 2010 and unfortunately for Ed Miliband a memo from Lord Adonis was found verifying that it was a one year kybosh as a sweetener for the electorate and unfortunately the Coalition had to abandon that.

The Coalition however has not done much to fight it. MPs have talked about it, the Autumn Statement has held it down to RPI+1 as a respite but the future has does not look as rosey as we might hope.

Two further points:

The Southeastern region has been on RPI+3 because we were paying towards the High Speed 1 rail route where as a lot of the rest of the nation kept RPI+1 and Sir Roger Gale MP mentioned in PMQs that his Constituents (Thanet) have paid up to 11% for a few years under Labour Government.

This battle of Political one-upmanship is never going to benefit the commuter. It is one of the very easy vote winners, lowering taxes and cutting prices will always catch someones attention as will casting blame and bringing up unfortunate truths from another party's past but ultimately it solves nothing - Prices will continue to rise.

I'm not even going to say that voting Liberal Democrat will change that, yes we want change and fairness but I can't promise you that we won't do the same thing because all parties are caught in the simple truth that David Cameron brought up on Wednesday;
It either has to come from the Taxpayer or from the traveller.
I can hear hundreds of thousands saying- I don't travel by rail, why should my money go into helping all those people travel by train up London? Surely they get paid enough? Aren't some of them bankers?

 It is a fair question - one that there is not a fair answer to.

Ultimately if you use a service you should pay for it.

However these rises in Train fares are not only damaging for the Consumer, but also they could eventually be detrimental to the economy as low paid workers are forced off the railways and maybe out of a job because they simply cannot afford the travel.

This all boils down to responsible Capitalism, which I'll be writing about later in the week, and Government control of the pricing - I know not very Liberal but - so that any rise is affordable by the users. Other solutions are being bandied around and I know Labour have set up a task force for it but I sincerely believe that a Cross party group needs to get together and lay all this history at the door as this childish squabbling is not achieving anything.

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