Miliband and PM lock horns over rail fares

Julian Harris
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A TIT-FOR-TAT exchange between David Cameron and Ed Miliband erupted in parliament yesterday, after the Labour leader hit out at some 11 per cent hikes in rail fares.

Miliband blamed the coalition for exorbitant fare increases, yet Prime Minister Cameron said the power to raise prices was given to train companies “by the last Labour government”.

A subsequent Labour decision to reverse the policy was only taken temporarily in an election year, Cameron claimed.

“You’re wrong,” retorted Miliband. “We took away that power from them – [but] you came to office and you brought the power back. You made the wrong decision.”

The opposition leader – burdened by criticism of his reign this week, following a high profile Twitter gaffe – said that companies were able to “rig” fares, citing a rise in season ticket prices from Northampton to London of more than £300. Companies are in some cases permitted to raise prices by five per cent above the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation.

Miliband urged Cameron to “stand up to” train firms, and “get a better deal for commuters”.

Debate at the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions quickly moved onto another transport issue – HS2 – yet the train fares row continued into the afternoon with Labour and the Tories both putting out statements attacking the other side.

Labour MP Simon Danczuk later demanded an apology from the PM.

“[Former transport secretary] Lord Adonis has made it clear today that it was his ‘firm intention to continue the policy [of lowering the ceiling for fare hikes] for subsequent years,’ – David Cameron knows the truth and he should come back to the House, apologise and immediately correct the record,” Danczuk said in a statement.