Ben Gummer MP fights for fair rail fares in the east

Ben Gummer MP, Conservative Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, says it is wrong rail fares in the east subsidise other areas

If you think your weekly rail ticket is too high, your train carriage too old and your journey time too slow, here's something that will depress you even further; you're subsidising passengers in other parts of the country to use trains there.

Figures obtained by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer show that every time passengers in the east use the train, part of their fare goes towards paying Greater Anglia's franchise payment.

This means that because the east is one of just two net contributors to the Treasury - part of that payment is given out to other loss making lines to help keep down fares elsewhere.

It means a passenger buying a return ticket from Norwich to London will pay £10.35 to subsidise another rail company. An annual ticket holder will pay a whopping £2,689.

Passengers travelling from Ipswich will pay £6.20 on a return ticket, or £1,611 a year in subsidies; while a passenger from Colchester would pay £4.64 for a day return or £1,207 annually.

Start Quote

We're paying an enormous amount of money out of our rail tickets for other users to have discounted fares. I don't think that's on when we're not getting the infrastructure investment which other parts of the country are getting.”

End Quote Ben Gummer MP (Con) Ipswich

"We're paying an enormous amount of money out of our rail tickets for other users to have discounted fares," says Mr Gummer. "I don't think that's on when we're not getting the infrastructure investment which other parts of the country are getting."

Improvements needed

Mr Gummer says the pill would be easier to swallow if rail travellers in the east felt they had a modern and efficient train service.

"How can the government justify giving 3.6p to London Midland for every passenger kilometre travelled, when its trains are on average 14 years younger than ours?

"How can the government explain why it is so generous with East Anglia rail users' money when our own trains are the most overcrowded in the country at peak times, after those of train companies operating between Heathrow and Gatwick airports?"

He points out that to travel 115 miles between Norwich and London takes one hour and 49 minutes, while to travel from York to London, which is nearly twice as far, takes just eight minutes longer.

Mr Gummer tells us it was hard work persuading the Department of Transport to make the figures public and he says he now intends to raise the matter with ministers repeatedly.

Ticket Office at Ipswich station Rail passengers buying tickets from Ipswich are subsidising fares of train users elsewhere

Regional manifesto

As we have reported before, there is a big campaign by the region's MPs for increased investment in the region's rail network. Earlier this year they produced a regional manifesto. Mr Gummer, who has been one of the leading campaigners, hopes this discovery will add more grist to the mill.

Abellio, owner of the Great Anglia franchise, will pay £151m to the government this year and £181m next year.

The Department of Transport says that our contribution to the subsidy "helps to fund fair and affordable rail services for everybody" and it's against the idea of changing the system.

But with the new franchise about to be renewed, Mr Gummer believes now is the ideal time to kick up a fuss.

Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The whole concept of breaking up British Rail and awarding franchise contacts based on phoney competition is a complete failure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I live in a country in crisis (Portugal) the trains are always clean, on time affordable and do not have standing passengers on inter-city and high speed trains your ticket has your seat number printed on it, I can buy a ticket on line and choose my own seat. The staff are polite friendly and helpful. A fare is the same price whatever time of day

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    This story has implications for rail travellers and businesses across the whole of England not just the 'east of England'. Why is there no analysis of English politics anywhere on the BBC?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    So considering the cost of HS2, would it not be more appropriate to say that, instead of E. Anglian rail fares being used to subsidise other rail users costs, that they are in fact key donors to the HS2 cause?

    Which still sounds silly as HS2 (I don't think) doesn't go through E. Anglia! Which makes me think that HS2 is too focused for that scale of investment, it doesn't benefit enough people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Fair enough to say AnyTime rail ticket-holders make a subsidy payment - but not a season ticket holder. Season ticket holders are subsidised by Anytime ticket holders, because the price of an annual season is somewhere around 120 times the price of a return ticket, yet might easily be used 250 times a year. And they can be used between any of the stations in between, especially for leisure use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    All I want is a good rail service, be it nationalised or privatised and not extortionately priced. Is this too much to ask? Aparently it is.
    To be honest both systems are flawed, so not convinced about re-nationalisation.

    And I am sorry but, HS2 is such a waste. I am all for necessary investment but, spending billions to take 20 mins off the time to Birmingham. There are many higher priorities

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Our privatisation of the railways has ,and still is a disaster.
    All the utilities need to be taken back into public ownership.
    The rip off merchants have had their day, at enormous cost to the taxpayer.
    The louts ripping people off know that no government would allow, say the water companies and supply to fail.
    It is a perfect situation for 'moral hazard' to flourish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    3. Ordinaryblokesays
    Sorry but that is totally rediculous. HS2 is a very necessary investment in this country. It not only provides serious journey reduction time to three city's but many more beyond including Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is a step towards the creation of a Trans European Network which will cut pollution by air traffic. Don't be so short minded, try to see the bigger picture!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    HS2 is going to cost every household in the land over £1,000. It will only connect 4 cities, so most of us will never use it. It will siphon off all the railway investment for a generation, £ 32 billion and counting. If you think the service is poor now and fares too high wait till HS2 gets going. It's already costing £5m per week, money the DfT would otherwise have spent on the railways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    If you reduce the fares on the Norwich-Ipswich-London route you will end up with far more passengers than you can carry. Trains will be heavily overcrowded and there are no spare train paths in to Liverpool St in the peak periods. Train fares are used to regulate the number of people wanting to use the service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This was the same Ben Gummer MP who voted against a cap on rail fare rises?



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