Trains are a rich man's toy, says transport secretary


Philip Hammond says trains have become a "rich man's toy"

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British railways are a "rich man's toy", Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has told MPs.

He was responding to a question about regulating fare prices on the planned high speed rail link so that it would be a "railway for everybody".

He said it was an "uncomfortable fact" that trains were already used by the better-off and said some fares were "eye-wateringly expensive".

Labour blamed Mr Hammond for allowing rail fares to "rocket".

Commuter season tickets are set to rise by about 8% on average next year - an above-inflation increase which is part of the government's plan to reduce the cost of the rail network to the public purse.

'Ripple effect'

Mr Hammond appeared before the Commons transport committee on Tuesday to answer questions on High Speed 2 (HS2) - the planned line between London and Birmingham with a possible future extension to northern England and Scotland.

He was asked by Labour MP Julie Hilling whether HS2 would become a "rich person's toy" unavailable to "people of low or moderate means".

She said: "Can you assure people that actually, it's going to be a railway for everybody, and what will happen about regulating fare prices, etc?"

Start Quote

People who use the railway on average have significantly higher incomes than the population as a whole - simple fact”

End Quote Philip Hammond Transport Secretary

Mr Hammond replied: "Uncomfortable fact number one is that the railway is already relatively a rich man's toy - the whole railway.

"People who use the railway on average have significantly higher incomes than the population as a whole - simple fact."

He said it was assumed HS2 would use "similar pricing to the West Coast Mainline, which I have said before ranges from eye-wateringly expensive to really quite reasonable, if you dig around and use the advance purchase ticket options that are available".

The assumption was that the "socio-economic mix" of HS2 passengers would be similar to those using that route and that the "ripple effects" of High Speed 2 would spread across the economy.

The transport secretary later told the BBC he had not been talking about the cost of rail tickets but had answered a question about whether HS2 would be a rich man's toy "perhaps slightly flippantly" and had pointed out that people who used the railways were usually better off than average workers.

'Slightly flippantly'

"Is the railway expensive? Yes it is. Is that because we have too high costs in our railway? Yes it is and the government is determined that with the rail companies and Network Rail we will tackle excessive costs in the railway and get the costs of running our railway down so it becomes more affordable for taxpayers and fare payers alike."

Start Quote

Far from being simply 'a rich man's toy' trains are also vital for many of those on more moderate incomes who need to get to work”

End Quote Stephen Joseph Campaign for Better Transport

The government changed the formula for calculating rail fare increases from 2012.

For the past few years the formula for fare increases has generally been RPI inflation plus 1%, but for the next three years it is RPI plus 3% - pushing the cost of season tickets up by an average of 8% in the new year.

Stephen Joseph, of the Campaign for Better Transport said: "Philip Hammond's description of rail fares as 'eye-watering' must lead the minister to reconsider the steep fare rises currently planned by government.

"Far from being simply 'a rich man's toy' trains are also vital for many of those on more moderate incomes who need to get to work, and the government will price many off the railways if it carries on with its plan to increases rail fares at three per cent above inflation over the next few years."

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said: "The real reason that our railway is becoming a rich man's toy is Philip Hammond's decision to allow rail fares to rocket by an average of 8% every year.

"This increasingly out-of-touch government has no idea of the cost of living crisis facing families up and down the country and the impact these rises are having on household budgets."

But train companies said they played a "key role" in the British economy, supporting jobs and businesses.

A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "We get millions of passengers from A to B every day - people from all backgrounds who travel on a range of different tickets.

"The average price paid for a single journey comes in at around £5 and the sale of cheap advance tickets has doubled in the last few years, with almost a million sold every week.

Virgin Trains, which runs services on the West Coast mainline, told the BBC there was a "wider range of value fares than ever before" on their services.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    #121 - "Mr Hammond's factory worker may very well benefit indirectly from HS2 as Mr Hammond points out. But the unemployed single mum does not."

    What drivel. A single mum can benefit if the advent of HS2 means the whole economy is boosted!

    What drivel. When economies are boosted, prices go up and the single mums lose out again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    So.....those who earn more use trains, those who earn less use buses.......errrrrrm WRONG! Local travellers use buses, people who need to travel further use trains. I don't earn that much but travel a lot for work, I use buses and trains when I can to avoid using the car (carbon footprint, fuel costs etc.), apparently this means I'm rich!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    I used to get the train to work and it was a cheaper than running a car by about £2,000 a year. At that time I had money left over for two or three long-haul holidays every year....

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    "123. Other Colours
    New Labour had 13 years to deal with this but chose to do nothing."

    Well, they did bring network rail back into public ownership. However, they enacted more new laws (around 1/day) than any government in history, so they had other priorities even if you didn't agree with them. The coalition is busily exceeding Labour's legislative onslaught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    I would be happy to travel by train especially as I live less than 5mins walk to the train station. The journey is 15mins each way and yet the annual season ticket is £1860 a year. The simple fact is its cheaper for me to drive into York rather than take public transport. If I went 10mins in the other direction into Leeds the fare is only £640. This pricing structure is just crazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    HS2 is nothing but a vanity project. It's no use saving 20 mins on a Manchester to London trip, when e.g. the poor sod in Blackburn has to waste 90 mins travelling to Manchester first. Better to improve all rail lines to West Coast standard first. Also the 'sales director' should be jetting round the world from Manchester Airport, not wasting time on a train to the overrated Heathrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    The quote from Philip Hammond in the last para just beggars belief. Have the Tories completely lost their sense of irony?

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    When the profits are guaranteed and the investment comes from the taxpayer... how is that a private sector business???

    Investment should come from profits and shareholders should expect to take the brunt of that in lower dividends and share prices.

    We live in a world where large investors live in a different world from everyone else - from bank bail-outs to rail investment, the ordinary man pays

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Many posters are probably wondering where the wealth they have created in the last decade has gone. Well, I'm afraid most of it was gobbled up by that idiotic real estate boom. If you didn't collect a freebie in the value of your real estate during this period, I’m afraid you are going to be paying into a tax system which benefits those who did while receiving no benefit yourself,

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    How strange it is that the nation which gave the world Steam engines and the railways cannot seem to have similar vision in the 21st century
    The early steam pioneers built lines all over GB Why? So that CITIZENS could have the freedom to travel wherever they wanted.
    For the future we should maybe build a cheaper automated monorail system to cover the country to replace what Beeching destroyed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    180 Adam - please don't bring "do my bit for the environment on a daily basis" into this as you have just basically whinged on for 5 lines before that about the cost of parking in the town centre and the fact that driving into work is beyond your means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    The other day I tried to book early for the same journey/same time I made in May this year and the price is now £75 due to changes in peak hours timings, it was £30 in May. With my wife also travelling it is cheaper to travel off-peak the day before, and spend a night in a hotel in London. Our Eurostar tickets from London to Belgium are cheaper than the Midlands to London. It's absolutely crazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Hammond wasn't kidding when he told us that trains are a rich persons toy.

    Has anyone seen the prices Hornby are getting these days............

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Easy for Mr Hammond to complain about the prices, all he has to do is put an expenses claim in and the tax payer looks after his fare. Pity Joe Public on the average salary who has to try to justify using the trains full stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    Perhaps us 'factory workers' oop north should also tug our forelock when our betters from down south are heading back home after a hard days venture capitalism.

    Patronising idiocy but nothing more than you would expect from a party who enjoy the divisions in our society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    I don't think the railways in this country are ever going to be perfect. First people complained about safety, then about puncuality, then it was over-crowding, and now its ticket prices.

    I've come to accept rising ticket prices as a fact of life. However, I think that although the current system has it's weak points, it's still better than going back to British Rail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    All 3 main parties talk about the environment & cutting congestion but continually giving planning consent for out of town malls, crippling rail fares, closing of community hospitals, post offices & schools all forces us into our cars. That is their intension: then they can tax us, in the name of the environment & cutting congestion, for using our cars. Their actions do not match their words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Trains are a rich man's toy, says transport secretary

    Blimey perhaps the Transport Secretary should do something about it!

    Hang on that might mean having to admit that privatising the railservice and paying CEO's (fat controllers) of the Thomas the tank engine services that resulted in excess of £1 million pa WHILE HAVING THE MOST EXPENSIVE FARES IN THE WORLD wasn't such a good idea after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    For some of us, for instance those of us who cannot drive due to medical reasons, the trains are a necessity – not a toy. And not everybody lives in SE England, in spite of what the government sometimes seems to think. I do wish the Transportation Secretary wouldn't make remarks worthy of a village idiot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    The nation needs to decide roads or trains both are funded by tax payers both have benefits and negatives but you can't have both being for all. What will it be?


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