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“Eye-watering fares” – even the Transport Secretary admits Britain’s railways are expensive

September 15, 2011

In a remarkably candid answer to a House of Commons committee, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond this week described the railway system as a “rich man’s toy”. The Secretary was being questioned about the likely cost of fares on HS2 (the high speed line to be built from London to Birmingham and Manchester) when he said “the railway is already relatively a rich man’s toy”.

He went on to add that he expected HS2 fares to be similar to those on Virgin’s West Coast service between Manchester and London – fares which he described as ranging “from eye-wateringly expensive to really quite reasonable”.

Is it too much to hope this outbreak of plain speaking will lead to reconsidering the government’s plan to let fares rise by 8% in January ? Unfortunately it probably is, as the Secretary has given no hint of trying to reduce the inflation-busting hike.

It’s certainly refreshing to learn the Secretary understands how prohibitively expensive train travel has become, but millions of people who rely on the train (or choose to use it for environmental reasons) will be sorry the Government has no plans to reduce them or even slow the rate of increase.

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