The government has been accused of attempting to “subsidise reckless behaviour” as ministers are reportedly planning to offer £1 fares to get people to use the rail network.
The rail industry has called for a “Head Out to Help Out” scheme similar to “Eat Out to Help Out” which offered a much-needed boost to the restaurant industry last month.
Rail companies are said to be mulling £1 fares and a blanket 20% cut to off-peak tickets under the proposed scheme, according to The Telegraph.
But Richard Wellings, deputy research director and head of transport at the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, said: “‘Head Out to Help Out’ looks like another ill-conceived government scheme to subsidise reckless behaviour.
“Moreover, if the railways' finances are in such dire straits, why on earth are ministers hellbent on wasting £100billion on HS2?”
Passenger numbers dropped 95 per cent during lockdown and are currently at just 30 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The government is preparing to make a statement on the future of the railways amid pressure from industry bodies to get people using trains again.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said earlier this week: “People’s feelings about travel, and the way they use public transport, have changed.
“While the rail leisure travel may bounce back, our research tells us almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more so we will probably now travel less for work, both commuting and on business.
“The government needs to get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet style ‘bundles’, flexible season tickets for commuters and better value for money fares across the board.
“Like the government’s restaurant deal, we need a ‘Head Out to Help Out’ campaign to help get the country on the move again, boost the economy and reduce traffic on our roads.”
And Bruce Williamson, of the campaign group Railfuture, said: “It’s very important that the government sends a signal that they want people to use trains. If it can find money for me to get £10 off at Burger King, then it can afford to freeze rail fares.”
Yahoo News UK has contacted the Department for Transport for comment.
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