Rail fare revolt gains momentum

CONSERVATIVE MPs yesterday hit out at proposed increases in rail fares and called on the government to do more to help cash-strapped commuters.

Backbenchers in marginal constituencies are preparing to lobby the government to act on travel costs after a furious public reaction to last week’s announcement that average fares will increase by 6.2 per cent in January.

“For any of my constituents who work in London this is basically a massive hike in income tax,” Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton, told City A.M.. “A lot of the people who are having to pay this are the people who get up at 6am to get into work. It’s a crony corporatist system of big government and big rail companies taking money out of the pockets of people who have no choice.”

Carswell said he had spoken to colleagues who share his concerns and they would consider potential action at the start of next month when parliament returns from recess.

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, said concerns were being raised in “significant quarters in government”.

“Our commuters’ salaries are not going up even though fares are going up. We need to continue lobbying ministers so they know the depth of sentiment. There is a considerable groundswell of opinion on this issue and recognition that it’s not sustainable. Ministers will not be deaf to our concerns.”

Robert Halfon MP said the government had the ability to act on the issue: “Under Labour a season ticket from Harlow to London went up by 40 per cent. Conservatives need to show they’re on the side of hard-working people and do everything we can to help with the cost of living.”

But Maria Eagle, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, accused Carswell, Halfon and Patel of “complete hypocrisy” as they voted against January’s opposition day motion that proposed pegging fare increases to one per cent above inflation.

“The government has put the wrong people first by caving in to pressure from the private train companies and allowing them to hike rail tickets,” she said.

Yesterday a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found 87 per cent of people thought the fare rises were “unreasonable”, including 83 per cent of Conservative voters.