Rail fare rises could continueMinister says money used to improve system

10 January 2007

 

The government has admitted that rail passengers would have to pay higher fares for improvements to Britain's transport system.

The warning came after it emerged that Britons pay more of their disposable income for transport than anywhere else in Europe.

More than 15 per cent goes on transport, including 3.8 per cent on rail, bus and plane fares - nearly double that of other major EU nations.

The findings were in a survey carried out for the BBC by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

‘Lack of focus’

Doug McWilliams, from CEBR, said that the government has a good record for investing in transport, but its policies have lacked focus.

He added money had been ploughed into buying thousands of buses - but these were 35 per cent less full than 20 years ago.

Mr McWilliams said: ‘We are not going to solve the transport problem overnight. However, I think we can criticise all governments, and particularly the present one, for a lack of focus.

But Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander says that fares are higher in Britain because other EU countries provide more subsidy.

‘There's really two sources of funds for public transport here and across Europe. There's the taxpayer and the fare-payer, and your reports focuses on the fare-payer,’ he told the BBC.

‘It doesn't recognise, as the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) recognises, that the UK is a relatively lightly-taxed economy, and if we want to see the kind of investment that's needed in our public infrastructure then we're going to have to pay for it.’

‘Damning picture’

Shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling said the survey painted a ‘damning’ picture of public transport ten years after Labour came to power.

He added: ‘What I don't understand is how they can consider introducing a national road-pricing scheme when they have so comprehensively failed to deliver a decent alternative. What ever happened to the much-vaunted integrated transport policy?’