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Labour pressures SNP with pledge for 33% rail fares cut

Richard Leonard at rail rally

Labour wants to nationalise the rail network (pic: Terry Murden)

Labour is promising to cut rail fares by a third and offer free travel for those under 16 across England, putting pressure on the SNP to follow suit in Scotland.

Instead of a further 2.7% rise due in the new year, Labour says it will slash fares as part of taking the network into public ownership.

But decisions on whether to fund rail fare reductions in Scotland and Wales are a matter for the devolved governments.

“This policy clears the way for Scotland and Wales to follow suit if they wish.” said Labour. In the meantime the fare reduction will apply to rail journeys wholly or partly within England.

Regulated rail fares would fall by 33% from January, saving the average commuter £1097 a year, while there will be a guaranteed fair structure for part-time workers

It will introduce a simple, London-style ticketing system across the nation.

Labour says the policy would cost £1.5 billion a year, based on regulated fare revenue data from Office of Rail and Road and single/weekly season price ratios from the National Fares Manual.

This funding will come from existing DfT budgets, drawn from Vehicle Excise Duty. VED is forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility to raise £6.5bn in 2019-20.

Most commuter fares including peak time fares and season tickets are regulated fares and make up almost half of all tickets sold.

Labour will guarantee fair fares for part time workers by ensuring that workers who commute fewer than 5 days a week pay no more per journey than full-time workers who use weekly season tickets – meaning part-time workers will see their fares cut by more than a third.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Travelling by train is my favourite way of getting around the country but for too long a fragmented and privatised rail system has ripped-off passengers.

“Taking back control of our railways is the only way to bring down fares and create a railway network that is fit for the future.

“Labour will bring about real change on the railways because we are on the side of passengers.”

Andy McDonald, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said “Privatisation has created one of the most complex, exploitative and expensive ticketing systems in the world. Labour will scrap the bewildering and outdated fares and ticketing system that discriminates against part-time workers, discourages rail travel and excludes the young and low paid.”

Labour says the privatised railway has created an expensive, bafflingly complex range of 55 million rail fares.

It will work with local transport authorities to define ‘islands’ within which zonal rail fares apply across all modes of public transport, with an affordable daily price cap so travellers can Pay-As-You-Go using bank cards or mobile phones.

Longer distance rail journeys will form ‘bridges’ between the islands, for trips where passengers need to know the price in advance to judge whether to flex their journey time to get off-peak rates. Fares for these journeys will become simple and transparent, with mainly distance-related, ‘single-leg’ pricing, where the return price is always the combined outward and return leg prices. Apart from higher ‘peak’ prices other complexities will be wiped out.

Labour will guarantee fair rail fares for part-time workers by ensuring they do not pay more per trip than holders of weekly season tickets.

The current system of rail fares disadvantage part time workers who commute or would like to commute by rail. A person who commutes by rail fewer than 5 days a week must either buy a whole week season ticket or purchase individual tickets, meaning the per journey cost is higher than for a person who commutes 5 days a week using a season ticket.

Labour will reduce the cost of single peak fares to 1/10th the cost of a whole week season ticket, so part-time workers will no longer incur higher per journey costs than full-time workers.

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