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Unfunded, uncosted and unbelievable – passengers deserve better than false Tory promises

3 min read

Labour's Shadow Rail Minister doesn't believe the Conservative policy on rail fares will work and says Labour's plan will improve services and deliver a fairer deal for passengers

No one will believe the Tories unfunded and uncosted claims on rail fares. The latest shambolic announcement is an act of desperation, and passengers will treat this claim with the contempt it deserves.

The changes would cost £100 million in just a single year, and last year Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that a fares freeze would cost the taxpayer £1.8 billion. So how does he now propose to fill the hole in his budget?  Which services will be cut, and which vital infrastructure projects will have to be cancelled?

There are no answers, because this is not a serious announcement from the Tories.  The truth is that the Conservatives are no friends of rail passengers, and the gap between their rhetoric and their record has never been wider.

This is just the latest in a series of false promises. In opposition, the Conservatives said that “fare rises come with tacit Government approval and are often the direct result of the franchise process,” but in power they have cynically raised fares by every means available.

The facts speak for themselves. Regulated fares have been allowed to rise by over 20% on average since 2010, more than four times faster than wage growth. The cost of some season tickets has risen by more than 30% because Ministers caved in to demands from train companies. Then, last year, the cost of evening fares in the North was shamefully raised by up to 162% at the direct insistence of Ministers.

This is not even the first promise to scrap above inflation fare increases. In 2012, Ministers said that “rail fare increases will be capped at the rate of inflation”. But less than a year later, fares were allowed to rise by up to 9%.

Against this backdrop, it is clear that this announcement is nothing more than a cheap pre-election stunt. It is unfunded, uncosted and unbelievable.

Given their record, it is nothing less than an insult to passengers. Hollow words from Ministers will change nothing for commuters who have been left with rip-off fares and uncomfortable and overcrowded journeys.

Labour has a better plan to improve services and deliver a fairer deal. We will put in place a strict cap on fare rises, guarantee a legal right to the cheapest fare and reform the rail industry to put passengers first. After the latest act of Tory dishonesty, it’s now clearer than ever that a change of Government is needed to change the railways for the better.

Lilian Greenwood is the Shadow Rail Minister. She is the Labour candidate for Nottingham South

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