Anger over 6.2% rail fares rises
Transport minister Theresa Villiers has insisted the Government will push ahead with a planned rise in rail fares, as protests are held at railway stations across the UK.
Fares are set to rise by 6.2% in January, although passenger groups have warned that train companies may use "dark arts" to increase prices further on some routes.
Firms are permitted to increase fares by 3% above July's Retail Prices Index measure of inflation - which stands at 3.2%.
A series of protests are being held at stations across the UK today to coincide with the news, with union officials demanding that the railways be returned to public ownership.
Speaking to BBC News this morning, Ms Villiers said the Government would push ahead with the RPI+3 figure, but insisted the network was producing a “significant expansion of capacity” to improve services for passengers.
"We do appreciate and understand people’s concerns about fares. That’s why we’re going to get the cost of running the railways down so we can respond to concerns about fares," she said.
“I’m afraid that RPI +3 is what we’re going to do in January. Of course we keep these things under review but we believe that this fare increase is very important in delivering a huge programme of rail investment."
Labour's Rachel Reeves has hit out at the Government over the rise, and called for ministers to take "urgent action" to prevent people being hit by the price "bombshell" in January.
“The Government has got to make a decision about whose side they’re on. Are they on the side of ordinary people...Or the rights of the train operators to charge whatever fares they like?", the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury said.
Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert said rail fares were "already far too high", and revealed he had been "putting pressure" on George Osborne to ensure prices do not rise too much.
Bob Crow, whose RMT union is taking part in the protests, said he was working with train passenger groups to ensure the railways in this country serve the travelling public rather than “the bosses”, and warned MPs that their “day of reckoning” was coming at the general election.
“Down the road here we have a person called Bruce Reynolds, who was one of the great train robbers. This crowd are bigger train robbers than the Great Train Robbery ever was," the union's general secretary told Sky News.
However the chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, Michael Roberts, defended the price rises and said passengers had seen significant improvements.
“What they have seen over the last 15 years are more and more services, there are 4,000 more services now than there were at the start of privatisation, and passengers have been paying for that, together with taxpayers," he told BBC News.