I share the concerns of those who have contacted me recently regarding rail fare rises and services. Our railways should be run under public ownership, in the public interest and with affordable fares.
The recent announcement that regulated rail fares in England and Wales will rise by 1.9% from January 2017 was very disappointing. Rail fares have risen by 25% in the last six years alone, but 80% of households have seen either flat or falling incomes since 2008. UK commuters already pay the highest fares in Europe for too often overcrowded carriages and unreliable services. I understand the frustration felt by passengers who have been told that higher fares are necessary to fund investment when vital projects have been delayed by years and essential maintenance works have been put on hold.
I support the policy of bringing rail franchises back under public ownership as they expire. This would be the best way to secure a fair deal for rail passengers and taxpayers and long term investment for a modern railway system. It would mean fairer fares, investment in the railway and giving passengers a stronger voice. Our trains should run for the benefit of passengers and the taxpayer. Indeed, TUC research has shown that the costs saved from bringing expiring franchises back into public ownership from 2016 to 2020 would be £604 million a year, enough to lower regulated fares by up to 10%.
Too many rail companies have failed to deliver the service that passengers demand. It’s very important that we have proper staffing in order to protect the safety of trains and stations. I oppose the extension of Driver-Only Operation on trains and it is vital that train operating companies listen to the views of passengers and the concerns raised by trade unions on this issue.
Reliable, affordable transport is essential for improving productivity to help the economy and I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government on these important issues.
MP for Leeds Central