The UK Government’s decision to sell one million train tickets at half price was lambasted today for excluding millions of commuters.
Launched today, the “Great British Rail Sale” aims to help struggling Brits travel amid a cost-of-living squeeze but it only applied to advance fares or off-peak tickets for companies who don’t offer an advance.
According to former transport minister Norman Baker, who now works for the Campaign for Better Transport, even though the scheme is a good first step, the industry needs lower fares if it wants to attract more people.
“I hope the take-up of this offer will attract people onto trains and actually end up generating extra money for the government,” he said.
“It can show the Treasury that the way to increase income is to cut fares, not keep ratcheting them up and driving people off the railway.”
Open from today for services departing between 25 April and 27 May, the scheme sparked controversy as it was made less than two months after the government hiked rail fares by 3.8 per cent.
The scheme, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced, is run on a commercial basis, with the government’s help.
Under the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements, the government has posed rail operators under its control, receiving profits from tickets but also paying most operating costs.
Commenting on the announcement, Labour’s shadow secretary Louise Haigh called the discounts a “small comfort to passengers” after years of “soaring fares,” City A.M. reported.
“This temporary respite will be small comfort to passengers who had thousands taken out of their pockets from soaring fares since 2010,” she said.
“Working people are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, and the Conservatives have chosen to hike up taxes and reject a windfall tax on the soaring profits of oil and gas giants.”
As a result of passengers’ excitement about the scheme, the website of Great Western Railway crashed, the Telegraph reported.
The operator, which runs services between Paddington and the west of England and Wales, blamed “high volumes of traffic” for the crash.