Freeze rail fares to help commuters return safely to work, urges Labour

Richard Wheeler, Sophie Morris and Lewis McKenzie, PA Political Staff
·2-min read

Rail fares should be frozen to encourage commuters to return to work, Labour has said.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon also pressed for a part-time season ticket as he warned that fares are set for another increase in January despite the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in lower than normal passenger numbers.

His remarks came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs: “I can report to the House some numbers which might be helpful overall and say that 62% of workers across the country are now going back to work – that’s the highest level since the crisis began.

Jim McMahon
Jim McMahon (Jacob King/PA)

“And in particular on National Rail, the figure for the week commencing September 7 was 42% back on our national rail services.

“In terms of non-London buses, ridership has gone back up to 58%.”

Mr McMahon later warned of the prospect of a fare increase, saying: “The average commuter will be paying £3,000 for their season ticket, over £900 more than they would have done in 2010.

“To encourage commuters back safely, will the Government commit to freezing fares and introduce part-time season tickets in the way that Labour has proposed?”

Mr Shapps replied: “The number of passengers now returning was just 42% last week, and I think it’s incumbent on all of us to demonstrate that the railways are safe, to take the railways from time to time, which I’m sure members across the House do, and to reassure people of the safety and efficacy of the use of the railways and all other public transport systems.”

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps (Danny Lawson/PA)

Labour also called for more financial support for small family coach firms during the pandemic.

Shadow transport minister Matt Rodda said: “Local coach companies are much-loved small businesses with the owners’ name and the town of origin proudly painted on the side of the coach.

“These are local small businesses which have served their communities through thick and thin.

“But day trips and coach travel for football supporters have disappeared due to the coronavirus and four in 10 of these much-loved local companies could go out of business this autumn with the loss of 27,000 jobs.

“So will the minister now reassure the House that the Government will take urgent action to support these family-owned small businesses and will he meet me and the coach operators as a matter of urgency?”

Transport minister Robert Courts replied: “I would be very glad to meet with him and representatives of the sector to look at what may be done.”