Labour raises Welsh rail fares – but calls for freeze else­where

Western Mail - - NEWS - RHODRI CLARK news­[email protected]­line.co.uk

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

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