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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

'The choice' the country faces on rail

Today, Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary sets out ‘The Choice’ the country faces on the railways. New RPI inflation statistics, which were revealed at 9:30 today, are used by the Department for Transport to set regulated fare increases for 2015. Which is an increase of 3.5% the DfT have announced.

Mary Creagh will use at speech at ARUP in central London to warn of the risk of five more years of Tory failure on tackling rising fares or reforming the broken market, and publish new figures from the Commons Library showing fares, already up by 21.5 per cent since 2010, could rise by a further 24 per cent by 2018.

Mary Creagh MP, commenting on the rise in fares, said: "David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. He’s allowed train companies to sting passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of over 20 per cent since 2010, costing them hundreds of pounds. We can’t go on like this. The choice facing passengers is between fares rising another 24 per cent by 2018 under the Tories, or a Labour Government which will cap annual fares on every route and enact the biggest railway reforms since the Tories’ botched privatisation, delivering a better deal for passengers and taxpayers."

In the speech Mary Creagh will say:

On fares

"Our rail fares are among the highest in Europe. Commuter season tickets have risen on average a painful twenty per cent under this Government, fuelling the cost of living crisis. Rail passengers rightly feel ripped off when they are uncertain if they paid the lowest fare. Labour will create a legal right to the cheapest ticket for your journey, ending the confusion passengers experience. We will introduce a strict cap on rail fares, removing the ‘flex’ arrangement that allows train companies to raise fares more on some routes."

On reform and franchising

"The Tory-led government’s West Coast franchise fiasco cost taxpayers fifty million pounds directly. And hundreds of millions more was lost in the resulting delays to investment and franchise extensions. The next Labour government will create a new organisation - a single guiding mind - to plan investment and services. This new body will bring Network Rail together with a representative passenger rail organisation. It will contract routes; coordinate services; oversee stations, fares and ticketing; plan new rolling stock; raise skills and be accountable for customer satisfaction. The next Labour Government will review the franchising process and put in place a system that is fit for purpose."

On a public sector comparator

"Building on the success of East Coast, we will legislate to allow a public sector operator to take on new lines and challenge the train operators on a level playing field. This will ensure better value for money for both passengers and taxpayers."

Mary Creagh says that the choice is clear: continuing failure and rising fares from the Tories or Labour's programme to reform the nation’s railway and tackle rising fares. Labour plans to reform the railways to get a better deal for taxpayers and passengers by:

  • Create a new "guiding mind" for the railway, bringing Network Rail together with a new representative passenger rail body to contract routes; co-ordinate industry services and skills; oversee stations, fares and ticketing; and ensure customer satisfaction across the network;
  • Review the Government’s failed franchise system, after the chaos of recent years, to put the passenger and taxpayer first;
  • Legislate to allow a public sector operator to take on lines and challenge the train operators on a level playing field to secure value for money;
  • Build cooperative principles to increase passenger and employee involvement, including encouraging mutuals and co-operatives into the industry;
  • Devolve decisions over the running of regional and local services so that local areas can bring together trains, buses, trams into a single network;
  • Tackle the monopoly market for train carriages by giving Network Rail greater responsibility to develop a long term plan for procurement and lease of new rolling stock;
  • Ease the pressure on fare payers by passing on the savings from our reforms by capping annual fare rises on every route, simplifying fare structures and creating a new legal right to the cheapest ticket.
Responding to Mrs Creagh's speech, Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin commented: "This is the same old Labour - with 8 months to go before an election, they're suddenly trying to rewrite their record. The last Labour government oversaw year after year of inflation busting fare rises - a mammoth 11 per cent in their last full year. They have no credibility when it comes to talking about the railways."

"This Government is working hard to turn things around and help families with the cost of travel. This year we were able to cap fare rises at the rate of inflation -only possible because we've cut inefficient spending elsewhere as part of our long-term economic plan."

"We fully recognise there's more to do to bring down the cost of rail travel in Britain. But we need to do it responsibly and we can't spend money we don't have. What Labour are proposing today is an uncosted spending commitment that would mean over £100 million more government borrowing - adding more debt than our children and grandchildren could ever hope to repay."