Rail price rises add heat to valley’s transport debate

Rail commuters hit by price increases
Rail commuters hit by price increases

Rail ticket prices and the option of re-nationalisation of the railways are topics confirming the 2015 General Election campaign is well on track in the Calder Valley.

Labour’s candidate Josh Fenton-Glynn has accused the Coalition Government of letting customers down by not delivering on issues including pricing and promised new services. Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Parliamentary candidate Jenny Shepherd and colleagues went further, campaigning for the railways to be taken back into public ownership

Mr Fenton-Glynn said the Government “has allowed train companies to hit passengers in the Calder Valley with massive fare rises.”

He said in five years a season ticket from Todmorden to Manchester for people living in Calder Valley has gone up by 25 per cent from £1,344 to £1,684. A better deal for passengers could be had by reforming the railways, simplifying the ticketing system and enforcing a strict cap on fares on every route, said Mr Fenton-Glynn.

“David Cameron is presiding over a rip-off railway in Britain. He has failed to stand up for working people of the Calder Valley struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and has allowed the train companies to hit passengers with massive fare rises of over 20 per cent since 2010. And we still have the ludicrous situation where the delivery of the Todmorden Curve is set to be delayed by over a year,” he said.

Fare rises prompted the Green Party to speak out against the way the network was run.

The Green Party would bring the railway back under public ownership, candidates told commuters at Hebden Bridge station. Calder Valley candidate Jenny Shepherd said: “The rail network is being run for the benefit of private corporations and clearly isn’t delivering for the public.

“Talking to Hebden Bridge commuters outside the station, passengers are not happy with the service or the fares they have to pay. They are very receptive to the idea that the way forward is to take back the railways into public ownership.”

Sitting Conservative MP Craig Whittaker said he understood concerns, but the Government was acting.

“I am pleased that for this year, the Government has announced that no regulated rail fares at all will rise by more than inflation. Together with last year’s freeze, this will save season ticket holders around £75 over 2014 and 2015.

“Whilst I accept that a 2.5 per cent increase on regulated fares is more than passengers want to pay and any increase is regrettable, the Government is investing £38 billion in the railways over the next five years and fares revenue is crucial in driving this investment forward. The UK has benefited enormously from private sector innovation and investment in the railways. Nationalising the service would be a disaster for passengers and a backward step.

“The last Labour Government stopped buying diesel locomotives ten years ago and, as such, there is currently a huge shortage of these trains across the country. It is this lack of rolling stock that has prevented the line from becoming fully operational and has caused this delay,” he said.