Maria Eagle MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, ahead of the publication of the Government’s rail strategy, said:
"The Tory-led Government’s rail strategy is set to put private profit before passengers thanks to their inability to stand up to vested interests. Plans to give train companies even greater freedoms to hike rail fares, close ticket offices and provide fewer staff on trains and at stations show just how out of touch Ministers are with passengers and commuters. The same private companies who are already raking in large profits in an industry that receives £4bn of taxpayers’ money every year are for the first time set to be given the whip hand over infrastructure as well as services.
"Passengers are already feeling the impact of fare rises of up to eleven per cent this year thanks to the Government’s decision to give back to train companies the right to hike fares by more than the so-called fare cap. We now know from the refranchising tender documents that bidders have been promised the right to hike fares by eight per cent above inflation in 2013 and 2014 and then six per cent above inflation every year for the next fifteen years. To add to the pressure facing commuters, Ministers are also set to give train companies even greater freedoms, including permitting even more expensive ‘super peak’ tickets and closing ticket offices making it harder to get the cheapest deals.
"It’s no surprise that the party that brought us the botched and costly privatisation of the rail industry is hell bent on finishing the job of handing control of Britain’s rail network to private train operating companies. As a result of these plans, profit will now be the driving principle behind rail infrastructure in addition to rail services. The proposed deep alliances will see a single regional manager for the first time being accountable not just to Network Rail, but equally to private train company bosses. The creation of a set of mini-Railtracks will take us back to the days when decisions on infrastructure and maintenance were profit–driven.
"The rail industry does need reform, but these proposals have a huge accountability gap at their heart. A serious plan for reform of the industry would put more power in the hands of passengers and local communities, not the private train companies."