COMPLEX, CHAOTIC, UNFAIR
TRANSPORT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CASTIGATES RAIL FARES
The Transport Committee's report How Fair are the Fares? Train Fares and Ticketing was published today. The Committee concluded that passengers are held to ransom by a chaotic and impenetrable system of fares. Passengers are being priced out of the market for flexible 'walk-on' travel. The Committee has called for tighter Government regulation to develop a simple, user-friendly and affordable structure of train fares. This structure should be applied across the entire network, no matter which company operates a particular line.
Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"The railways are a public service in receipt of vast Government subsidies. In the spirit of a public service, the railways should be affordable and accessible to all.
"The Government has taken its eyes off the ball over the past decade, allowing free reign for train operating companies to focus ruthlessly on maximising their revenues. The result is an impenetrable fares system and exorbitant prices for walk-on travel. We are deeply concerned at the complacency and lack of strategic thinking displayed by a Government seemingly content with this lamentable state of affairs."
Mrs Dunwoody concluded:
"The Government must now provide the leadership required to ensure that passengers and tax-payers get the user-friendly and affordable fares system they deserve. It must also adjust current regulation of commuter fares so that the cost of commuting is brought down over time. Rail ticketing is a crucial part of a coherent public policy for transport, the environment and regional development. It must be an integral part of a much wider strategy.
"The Government must look at ways of beefing up the powers of the Office of Rail Regulation when train operators charge exorbitant fares. Given that train operators usually operate as virtual monopolies, it is vital that the regulator has effective means to clamp down where exorbitant fares are charged."
Press Notice 41/2005-06 19 May 2006
Dr John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee