Tory MPs fear higher fares and poor services

CONSERVATIVE MPs representing London's commuter belt voiced deep concern yesterday that privatising British Rail could lead to higher fares and poor services for constituents unless subsidies continue at present levels.

Sir John Stanley, Tory MP for Tonbridge and Malling, said that he had been informed by Sir Bob Reid, chairman of BR, that fares would rise by 190 per cent in Network SouthEast if subsidies were ended and the government-set rate of return maintained.

Introducing the Railways Bill, John MacGregor, Secretary of State for Transport, told the Commons that subsidies would continue for socially necessary services, but, as Sir John and other MPs pointed out, he did not say at what level or for how long. The subsidy will go to franchisees of otherwise loss-making services to meet the charges of Railtrack, which will be separated from BR and made a government-owned company in April next year.

The Bill was given a Second Reading by 302 votes to 269 and will now be subject to detailed examination in committee. Robert Adley, Conservative chairman of the Transport select committee, and Sir John said that they could not vote for the measure.

Mr Adley condemned the Bill as a 'recipe for muddle, indecision and conflict' that was opposed by millions of rail-users and by those who managed the network and worked on it. The flaw was the proposed separation of responsibility for track and signalling from the operation of trains. 'We are breaking up a national railway system and replacing it with a vacuum,' he said.

Mr MacGregor was jeered by Opposition MPs when he detailed subsidies for private rail freight operators to try to switch traffic from road to rail. John Prescott, Labour's transport spokesman, said that he did not have to wait for completion of the legislation before bringing in the freight grants but had power to act immediately - a plea reinforced by Mr Adley and Sir David Mitchell, a former Tory rail minister.

Mr Prescott described the Bill as 'a cherry-pickers' charter'. It would make the railways less safe. There would be less investment, branch lines could close and more traffic would switch to road. 'What we want is modernisation, not privatisation.'

Mr MacGregor said that in return for subsidies to run unprofitable services, franchisees would sign legally-binding contracts specifying the quality and frequency of services. 'I see no reason why fares should increase faster under the new system than they do under the present nationalised industry structure, and, in many cases, I believe that in fact they will be more flexible and will be reduced.

'There will be controls on railway operators' freedom to increase fares where they might otherwise be able to take advantage of significant market power to exploit passengers, for example on London commuter services.'

Pressed by Brian Wilson, a Labour transport spokesman, to guarantee the continuation of national network railcards for the elderly and for young people, Mr MacGregor said that there was no statutory obligation on BR to provide them but he believed it would be 'in the interests of franchisees to offer facilities of that sort'.

David Howell, MP for Guildford and a former Cabinet minister, questioned where the investment was going to come from to provide Network SouthEast commuters with a new and modernised infrastructure for the 21st century.

Mr MacGregor cited price benefit to consumers following privatisation of British Telecom, gas and electricity, but Sir John Stanley said that whenever the public sector body had suffered from under- investment, as was the case with the water industry and BR, 'the implication for fares have invariably been upwards'.

George Walden, Tory MP for Buckingham and a former minister, warned: 'Anyone can run a line; what we need is someone to run a railway.'

(Map omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition