Yet more strain on our trains

The Coalition's plans to help cut rail subsidies will mean many commuters pay even higher fares

Commuters travelling at peak times face higher fares as train operators try to tackle overcrowding on the busiest services, the Government warned yesterday as it set out moves to cut subsidies to the rail industry. Its vision of a more streamlined and modernised rail network would also mean hundreds of ticket offices at smaller stations being closed. Tickets would instead be sold at corner shops, libraries and post offices, while “smart cards” similar to London's Oyster cards would be launched to enable passengers to travel across Britain without paper tickets.

Unions protested that the plans would lead to 12,000 job losses and a poorer service, while the Labour Party claimed the proposals paved the way for a further break-up of the rail system.

The ideas were announced by the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, in response to a report by the businessman Sir Roy McNulty, who concluded that inefficiencies on the network were costing taxpayers and fare-payers up to £3.5bn a year.

In a consultation paper, the Government suggested "using price signals to smooth demand across the commuter peak" – raising fares at the busiest times and cutting them at quieter points in the morning and evening rush-hours. It said that if passenger numbers could be spread more widely, it would delay the need for new trains to cope with demand, as well as tackling overcrowding.

In a statement to MPs, Ms Greening suggested that employers should be flexible in allowing staff staggered arrival and departure times, thus enabling them to travel on cheaper services. Plans to revamp the ticketing system to reflect that more travellers are buying tickets online, or from automated machines at stations, could lead to the closure of hundreds of booking offices.

Ms Greening said she wanted people to be able to obtain tickets from shops, libraries and post offices, just as commuters in London can use retail outlets to top up Oyster cards. Ms Greening also drew on the capital's example to suggest a nationwide "smart cards" system. She told the Commons: "It is time to bring fares out of the 1970s and into the 21st century."

However, her consultation paper admitted that "a fully smart-enabled network is still some way off", in apparent recognition of the practical problems of getting separate rail companies to work together on the initiative.

She announced that franchises would be handed to train operators for longer periods to help them to raise investment, and argued that the overhaul of the industry would mean "the days of spiralling and unjustified rail costs are coming to an end". But transport unions claimed the recommendations could cost thousands of rail jobs and lead to higher fares for some commuters.

Bob Crow, leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), said: "This Government rail plan isn't a recipe for efficiency – it's a recipe for exploitation with the operators given the green light to rob passengers blind to travel on overcrowded and unsafe trains in the name of private profit."

He said the plans would lead to more accidents like the Potters Bar disaster in 2002, in which seven people died.

The TSSA union, representing white-collar transport workers, said plans to sell rail tickets "like lottery tickets in corner shops" would produce "rocketing fares and millions of losers".

Rail travel in numbers

1.3 billion Number of UK passenger journeys by rail per year, up from 800 million in 1987.

£7.4bn Value of the 576 million tickets sold last year.

250 million Number of journeys made in London and the South-East in the third quarter of 2011.

122 million Number of journeys made in the rest of the country during the same period.

82 per cent Ratio of tickets bought at a discount.

6 per cent Season ticket rise in January 2012. For 2013 and 2014, prices are set to rise by RPI inflation (currently 3.9 per cent) plus 3 per cent for January 2013 and January 2014.

£3.5bn Cost of inefficiency to the taxpayer, according to the McNulty review.

12,000 Number of jobs that will be lost if the McNulty recommendations are implemented, according to the RMT.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?