Labour raises Welsh rail fares – but calls for freeze elsewhere
THE Labour Party is being accused of “hypocrisy” after calling for rail fares to be frozen in England and Scotland next month – when fares controlled by Labour in Wales will increase.
On January 2, rail fares in Wales and England will increase by 3.1% on average, and in Scotland by 2.8%.
Labour is arguing for a fares freeze where services have been disrupted in England and Scotland but is not making the same case for Wales – where one AM described the rail services as a “shambles” yesterday.
The annual fare increase is still based on the old Retail Prices Index (RPI), which is no longer an official statistic. The Office for National Statistics says RPI should not be used, and that RPI is usually about one percentage point higher than the more accurate Consumer Prices Index (CPI).
On November 30, Labour called on the UK Government to freeze fares on routes where passengers had seen significant disruption.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald MP said: “This has been a painful year for rail passengers. With little prospect of improvements in 2019, this latest above inflation fares rise will be felt even more deeply than usual. These increases show a Government and rail industry out of touch with passenger concerns.
“Chris Grayling [the UK transport secretary] has presided over a disastrous loss of public faith in the railway. The Government should have limited the fare rise to the CPI to prevent fares rising in real terms and made responsible train companies freeze fares on routes affected by the timetabling chaos.”
The UK Government does not control rail fares in Wales and the Borders, where the rail franchise has been devolved to the Welsh Government. This means Wales is the only part of the UK where Labour has not called for a freezing of fares.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM, Plaid Cymru’s economy and finance spokesman, said: “It would be the usual sheer hypocrisy of Labour to call for freezes in England and Scotland where they’re not in power, if they don’t plan to do so in Wales where they are in government.
“Labour in Wales should tell us immediately if they agree with Scottish Labour and plan to freeze ticket prices here too.”
Welsh Conservative transport spokesman Russell George AM said: “Rail passengers have experienced a huge amount of delays and cancellations to services in Wales and when those passengers are asked to cough up even more for their tickets in January, I’m sure this will leave a bitter taste in the mouth. I am calling for the suspension of any increases in Welsh fares until the current shambles is sorted out. The public deserve to see improvements before they are asked to hand over yet more cash.”
Labour ministers opted to peg fares to RPI, instead of CPI, when awarding the 15-year Wales and Borders contract to KeolisAmey in June.
The railway between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Llandudno has probably been the worst hit line in Britain this autumn. The entire train service has been cancelled for several weeks. Next month the price of a threemonth season ticket between the towns will rise by 3.3%, to £490.80.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Government has set clear constraints on the acceptable level of fare increases during the contract procurement process. Transport for Wales Rail Services now have to operate within those legally-set restrictions.
“As part of our commitments within the new agreement, Transport for Wales will be flattening fares in North Wales and also in the Northern parts of the South Wales Valleys by around 10%. This January, they are also introducing 3,000 new advance fares, which will reduce the cost of travel for longer distance journeys, whilst also holding regulated fares, which include season tickets for commuters, below the July 2018 RPI figure.”
> On January 2, rail fares in Wales will increase by 3.1% on average