Devizes MP under pressure to defend soaring train fares
Devizes MP Claire Perry was under pressure this week in her role as transport minister to defend soaring train fares.
She took the 6.45am train from Bedwyn to Reading for a Radio 4 interview this morning and had the chance to speak to commuters on the way.
The price of a return ticket from Bedwyn to Paddington is set to rise to £34 under a Government agreement which sees fares rise at one per cent above the Retail Price Index.
Mrs Perry said that most commuters felt the standard of rail transport had improved.
She said: “Commuters want to know they are getting value for money. I get a lot of letters on the subject and some people are quite upset about fare increases but when I travel by train and talk to people I do not get any abuse.
“The Bedwyn line is my local one and so quite a few people recognise me. But I also go up and introduce myself although, of course, not everyone wants to be disturbed esepcially early in the morning.”
She said that she was loving her new ministerial role and was a secret train buff.
Mrs Perry said: “It is quite a technical job but it is also very exciting. I am loving it.”
She claimed that commuters were seeing an unprecedented investment in the rail service and said people could avoid paying high prices if they booked in advance.
“Around 45 per cent of tickets are now bought in advance. People don’t just rock up to the station like you and I do and pay the maximum amount,” she said.
She acknowledged commuters had dealt with "inflation-busting fare rises almost every year over the last decade" but insisted the Government is committed to "fair fares".
She said: “What we have got to do is make sure rail passengers, who could be forgiven for thinking ‘What on earth am I getting for these rises I’ve seen over the last decade?’, start to realise that they are paying fair fares for comfortable commuting.
“Transport is a really big nut in people’s average incomes, second only to housing.
"What I want to have, which I think we are delivering, is a sort of laser-like focus on how you help people with the cost of living with things such as tax reductions and fuel price reductions.”
Train fares are due to jump yet again with a 3.5 per cent price hike announced today with the most recent inflation figures.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the Retail Price Index, the monthly measure for inflation, came in at 2.5 per cent in July, which sets the formula for regulated rail fare increases.
Under the formula fares will rise at one per cent above the Retail Price Index, and Tuesday’s announcement is due to come into force for rail fares in January 2015.
Services between Chippenham and Bristol Temple Meads is set to rise to £32 for a standard return, and a return from Great Bedwyn to London Paddington will come in at £34.
The announcement comes after annual season tickets for rail services between Swindon and London broke the £8,000 mark this January following a 4.1 per cent increase.
The latest rise is expected to add around £280 to a Swindon to London season ticket, and bring the cost of an off-peak single from Swindon to London Paddington to around £27.
A standard return would set commuters back around £45.50, with a first class return coming in at £128.
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