MPs back cap on rail fares

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POLITICIANS across the city are battling to stop the Government from lifting caps on rail fare increases.

Fares could increase in the New Year as the Government is set to lift the limit on how much prices can rise by.

Rail fares are due to increase by three per cent above inflation in January, meaning commuters face a £264 hike in the price of a season ticket between Milton Keynes and London. This is on top of a £268 increase in January this year when the cost of a season ticket for London Midland went up to £4,408 a year.

The issue was raised by Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Spokesman for Milton Keynes, Andrew Pakes, who insisted the Government needs to step in.

He said: “Commuters are still recovering from a £268 hike in fares this January, now it looks like a six per cent increase is coming down the tracks for this year as well.

“The Government needs to step in and sort this out before they start pricing people out of work. This is bad news for commuters and the local economy. If Ministers go ahead with their plan to allow train companies again to hike rail fares by as much as 11 per cent, it will show how out of touch they are with the rising cost of living.”

And Tories MPs Iain Stewart and Mark Lancaster agreed the fares should be kept under control – although they placed the blame on spiralling costs on the Labour party.

MP for Milton Keynes South, Mr Stewart, said: “I agree that rail fares are too high. Under Labour they increased by a whopping 69 per cent. The Government is reviewing the whole of the railway industry to make it more efficient and reduce costs.

“As a member of Parliament’s Transport Committee, I am closely involved in scrutinising these plans. I also welcome the fact that, last year, the Government found money to limit fare increases and I will be lobbying for them to do so again this year.”

And member for MK North, Mr Lancaster, added: “It’s a bit rich for Mr Pakes to be complaining about the above inflation fare rises policy introduced by the last Labour Government, but I’m delighted that the current Government has committed to bringing it to an end as soon as possible.

“Having campaigned long and hard for improved local rail services, I’m delighted that those efforts are beginning to bear fruit with the recent improvements at Milton Keynes and Wolverton stations.”

After a campaign by transport groups about the financial strain on rail passengers, ministers were forced to limit the rise to one per cent above inflation this year. The Department of Transport has now confirmed the return to three per cent above inflation, which is currently running at three per cent. It means rail fares could increase by six per cent on average.