PASSENGERS who want to travel at peak times should not be penalised with even larger fare rises, a transport committee will warn today.
The Department for Transport has been told it must act to ensure passengers see the benefits of £4bn worth of train subsidies handed to railway firms.
And reducing the cost of the railways to taxpayers must not be achieved by ramping up fares rush-hour fares, the committee’s chairman Louise Ellman has said.
She added it was vital that the public know more about how their money is being spent on the railways.
The report by the House of Commons select committee also warns that while plans to potentially hand councils across the North of England control over the Northern Rail franchise should be welcomed, they must not come at the cost of a reduced influence for rural commuters.
Councils in the North East are considering either bidding to run a service just across this region or joining up with bigger cities such as Manchester and Leeds to operate a wider service.
The committee’s report on the railways comes just two days after inflation-busting average rises of 4.2% for regulated fares, which include season tickets, took effect for passengers.
Following Sir Roy McNulty’s report into rail costs, the Government is currently looking at a variety of measures.
These include possibly managing peak-time demand by increasing fares for those wanting to travel when the rush hour is at its height.
Launching the report , Ms Ellman said: “The number of rail passengers has increased but train companies’ unit costs have not come down. The Government wants to reduce the cost of the railway to taxpayers, but it must not do so by ramping up fares which can be complex and are often very expensive.” Last night Nic Best, speaking on behalf of the North East Combined Transport Activists Roundtable group, which submitted evidence to the report, said there were clear lessons for the Government.
“It is not only the South and London commuter areas which suffer from the fare rises. There are many in the North East hit by them, both the regular users of the route to London and those on local services,” he said.
“It’s odd that the Government’s attitudes to rail and road are very different. When motorists face pressure the Government builds more roads, when trains are overcrowded the Government considers fare rises.”
Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “We flatly reject the unfounded accusation that train companies are profiteering.”
Transport minister Simon Burns said: “We are looking at how fares might be used to spread demand more evenly, including rewarding passengers who are able to avoid the busiest services.”