Rail campaigners have hit out at proposals to increase rail fares during the busiest times of the day.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening yesterday launched a consultation paper on rail travel reform, which includes a raft of proposals for meeting demand and improving rail service.
The paper, which was published in the wake of a value-for-money study published last year by Sir Roy McNulty, proposed “using price signals to smooth demand across the commuter peak”.
The consultation stated: “If commuter demand could be ‘smoothed’, even within the 7-10am and 4-7pm windows, this would enable capacity to be used more effectively and could allow more people to travel by rail overall.”
But Lancashire rail campaigners have claimed the move is a negative way of dealing with overcrowding, by pricing people off trains, instead of investing.
Aidan Turner-Bishop, of the Lancashire Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It is cheaper to do that than invest in new vehicles and infrastructure.
“What we need is a national programme with a national rail plan, which would encourage traffic from roads onto rail.
“To do it properly you need to invest in it, but it would be good investment.”
Preston Councillor Dave Wilson, who is the council’s lead member for health and champions public transport, claimed upping the price would force people back on to the roads.
He said: “My view is you must increase the number of carriages.
“I regularly go to Chorley or Manchester, and you are very lucky to get a seat, it is getting as bad as the underground in London at peak hours.
“You look at Buckshaw Village, which is one of the newest stations in the country, the car park is always full.
“It proves people want to travel by train, but at what cost?
“How comfortable will they be?
“Soon they will start going back on the roads.”
In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Ms Greening said reforms of the rail industry would achieve substantial savings, which “would allow us to cut and then abolish above-inflation rises in average regulated fares (which include season tickets)”.
She said that the Government would expand smart ticketing “to give more passengers the benefits travellers in the capital already enjoy with Oyster cards”.
Ms Greening said Sir Roy McNulty had concluded that inefficiency was costing farepayers and taxpayers £3.5 billion a year.
She said the rail industry would work together to eliminate this £3.5bn inefficiency gap by 2019.
Speaking after the statement, Miss Greening said the proposals would build a “more efficient and affordable rail network that serves its passengers better, encourages the rail industry to thrive and grow, and ultimately reinvigorates and sustains Britain’s economy.’