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  1. ITV Report

Government unveils plans for rail overhaul

ail passengers may face higher ticket prices on peak fares Photo: REUTERS/Paul Hackett

Rail passengers could see a rise in peak-time morning and evening rush-hour fares, according to new government proposals.

In a statement to the House of Commons, the Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the proposals could help to "root out inefficiency of rail-busting rail fares".

Ms Greening said that this inefficiency was costing farepayers and taxpayers £3.5 billion per year and "It is time to bring fares out of the 1970s and into the 21st century."

She went on: "We want fares to remain affordable. There may be some ability to incentivise people to travel off-peak."

Ms Greening also said that the Government would expand smart ticketing "to give more passengers the kinds of benefits that travellers in the capital already enjoy with Oyster cards".

Other proposals to be consulted on include:

  • Reforming of rail franchises
  • Strengthening of the powers of the Office of Rail Regulation
  • Possibility of closing some ticket offices
  • providing better punctuality and real-time travel information

Under the reforms, the government will accept many of the recommendations of a Whitehall-commissioned rail value-for-money report published last year by Sir Roy McNulty.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "We want to keep train fares down, which is why we are looking to reduce the costs of the railways in this country.

"What the McNulty review was all about was how we can reduce those costs and therefore lessen the burden on taxpayers and fare-payers."

Train companies have welcomed the reforms proposed by the government Credit: PA/PA Wire

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "Train companies are ready to play their part and ministers must now seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn reform into reality."

Network Rail's chief executive, David Higgins, said: "Our core purpose remains that of delivering value for money to our customers and taxpayers as we strive to continuously improve the railway.

"Today's Command Paper gives us a solid platform on which to continue to carry out that task."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union said peak fare increases were a "recipe for exploitation" Credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union said government proposals to increase the prices of peak-time rail fares is a "recipe for exploitation".

"This Government rail plan isn't a recipe for efficiency, it's a recipe for exploitation with the train operators given the green light to rob passengers blind to travel on overcrowded and unsafe trains in the name of private profit.

"This plan also sets us on course for a return to the dark and dangerous days of Railtrack that led to the (rail) disasters of Hatfield and Potters Bar".

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said:

"Plans to give train companies even greater freedoms to hike rail fares, close ticket offices and provide fewer staff on trains and at stations show just how out of touch ministers are with passengers and commuters.

Fair Fares Now, who campaign for cheaper, simpler, fairer train fares, tweeted:

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Let's try to tempt passengers away from peak-time travel, rather than penalise them for doing so. Many commuters have little choice when deciding when to travel.

Sophie Allain, Campaign for Better Transport's public transport campaigner, said the good things in the announcement would "be overshadowed if operators are allowed to charge premium fares on busiest services, which, together with the existing plans for above-inflation fares rises for the next two years, will mean massive fare increases for thousands of people".