Lib Dem peer Lord Bradshaw will today ask the Government whether it has conducted any comparison of the level of railway fares in the UK compared with elsewhere in Europe. Here he sets out how Liberal Democrats should improve life for those with no choice but to take the train
Many railway fares are too high and it should be the aim of Liberal Democrats to stop the year-on-year rises. However, it is wrong to say that our fares are the highest in Europe.
Research recently publicised shows that for most journeys booked in advance fares here are lower than in France, Germany and Italy. The fares that are expensive are those paid by the turn-up-and-go passengers who want to travel today and season ticket holders who have to pay higher fares often to ride in old, crowded and uncomfortable trains and who have seen no improvements in their services for many years. These people have no choice but to use the railway – but they often see themselves paying higher fares to pay for improvement elsewhere.
What should be the Liberal Democrat response? We have to value our railways and make them more attractive. They will be much more efficient and well used. This has been demonstrated clearly in the case of the London Overground.
We have to recognise the value that a modern railway brings to passengers, the freeing-up of road space, the communities and the increase in land values around the new railway stations. The need to include these benefits in calculating the value of new railway facilities is now highlighted in the proposals for HS2 (the proposed High Speed Railway). The economic benefits from the new railway will go to landowners and property developers unless we reform our rating system, perhaps by a general revaluation of property or even a form of land-value taxation.
Meanwhile, train operating companies should be obliged to offer passengers the lowest available fare, even if that involves the purchase of more than one ticket for a journey. There is scope for much more transparency in the way they conduct their businesses. Maybe a move towards more management contracts, as suggested in the recent report by Richard Brown, is the way ahead.
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.