Dearne MP’s Column - Commuters hit with huge fare increases

Michael Dugher MP
Michael Dugher MP

It’s a new year but the same old story when it comes to people being clobbered by the cost of living crisis that has come to define David Cameron’s government.

Last week, people in South Yorkshire were hit with yet more rail fare hikes. This means that since 2010, people here have been hit with fare increases of over 20 per cent - nearly three times the average pay rise over the same period.

So what has the Government done? It has just stood by and allowed the train companies to get away with inflation busting increases. Like with the banks or the energy companies, David Cameron can always be relied upon to stand up for the wrong people.

In fact, since 2010, some season tickets have risen by as much as 30 per cent, forcing people to pay hundreds of pounds more to commute to work on increasingly overcrowded trains. For example, a season ticket from Barnsley to Leeds has risen by 24 per cent, from £1,508 to £1,864.

Northern Rail has been forced by the Government to introduce evening peak ticket restrictions on local rail services as part of their franchise extension. This means that some passengers who previously used off-peak tickets have faced a sharp increase in their fares. For example, a passenger travelling from Wombwell to Meadowhall under the new peak restrictions now have to pay 26 per cent more for their ticket.

I want to see a better deal for passengers and taxpayers by reforming the railways, simplifying the ticketing system and enforcing a strict cap on regulated fares on every route. Labour has also said we will also give passengers a voice in how the railways are run and stop passengers getting fleeced at ticket machines by making it a legal right to be sold the cheapest available ticket for a journey.

These reforms will make a big impact on the service people receive and value for money for passengers. But train fare increases is just one aspect of the cost-of-living crises people are currently facing. Overall, working people are now £1,600 a year worse off under this Government and family energy bills have been allowed to rise by almost £300.

To turn things around, we should be: supporting working people and making work pay by raising the National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour before 2020; banning exploitative zero-hours contracts; introducing tough and fair immigration controls; freezing energy bills until 2017; expanding free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week; and introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax.

And we should be backing the next generation in South Yorkshire by boosting apprenticeships and ensuring there is a paid starter job for every young person out of work for over a year.