Labour members leafleted commuters at Kingston, Surbiton, New Malden and Norbiton rail stations on Monday 6th January 2014. They were showing that under the Coalition fares were rising faster than income and, despite his promises, Mayor Johnson was planning to remove even more staff from ticket offices.

Labour’s policy is very clear:

  • a tough cap on rail fares on all routes
  • a legal right to the cheapest ticket for your journey
  • staffed stations – accessible and safe for all

Gerry Jones describes how this fare hike came about and gives the full background. For their part the Liberal Democrats have made no comment.

On 2 January average rail fares rose by 3.1%. TfL fares on London tubes and buses will go up by the same amount but not till 19 January. Boris Johnson has chosen to call this a ‘real terms price freeze’ because 3.1% was the July figure for Retail Price Inflation. Of course this is the same Boris Johnson who called his £250,000 fee for his column in the Daily Telegraph ‘chicken feed’. The fact that prices have been rising faster than incomes ever since the Coalition came to power will mean little to either him or millionaire Bullingdon Club chum George Osborne. Indeed this January’s rise will be the sixth time in seven years that hikes in train fares have outstripped average wage increases.

Commuters worse off under Coalition

On average, working people are now £1,600 a year worse off under this government, and by the next election in 2015 this shortfall will have risen to more than £2,000. When commuters come to cast their vote in Coalition-held constituencies they should reflect that this government has now engineered one of the most expensive rail systems in the world. For example a Rail Rover ticket covering the whole of the UK network for a year would cost £18,250 while a similar ticket covering the whole of the German network would cost just £3,404. Research from Action for Rail shows the average commuter now pays nearly 14 per cent of their monthly wage on train travel. That is more than ten times the proportion spent by their counterparts in other European countries. Citizens’ Advice chief Gillian Guy commented: “Ministers must recognise that for millions, train travel is not an optional extra but is vital to their everyday lives. For many of them even the smallest increase in rail fares makes a massive dent in household budgets.”

Osborne steals Johnson’s thunder

In early December London Mayor, Boris Johnson proudly announced that (apart from Travelcards) London fares would ‘only’ go up by average of 3.1% rather than the previously announced national rail increase of 4.1%. (RPI + 1%). However, in his Autumn Statement, just two days later, Chancellor George Osborne seemed to have opted to “shoot Boris’s fox” by announcing that the average 2014 increase in rail fares would now only be 3.1% rather than the expected 4.1%. This unexpected U-turn threw Transport for London and Boris Johnson into some confusion as they had assumed that the national rise would be 4.1% and had factored that into their planned Travelcard pricing and budget plans. Suddenly they were forced to change.

Farcical Lack of Communication

TfL informed the Mayor and Assembly that it would take around 30 days to update their systems – hence the delay until 19 January (which will cost TfL around £14m in lost revenue!) Labour Assembly Member John Biggs said: “It is farcical that what appears to be a lack of communication between the Chancellor and the Mayor has resulted in TfL being unable to implement the planned fare rises.” Val Shawcross, Labour transport spokeswoman in the London Assembly, said, “We have had five years of inflation busting fare rises under Boris Johnson, with bus fares up 55% and Tube fares up 30%. Now he also plans to cut 750 TfL station staff in London Underground.” Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “Rail fares have risen 20 per cent under this Government and David Cameron is doing nothing to tackle the cost of living crisis.”