The Government has defended the 2.6% rise in rail fares due next month.
Transport Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said the taxpayer has been “spectacularly generous” to the railways during the COVID-19 crisis.
Lady Vere told the House of Lords at question time that there has to be a balance between what taxpayers and passengers pay towards the railways.
“We are content with a small increase in regulated rail fares,” she added.
Ticket prices will increase by an average of 2.6% from March 1, which is last July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation plus 1%.
For the Opposition, Lord Rosser asked how this rise will encourage people back on to the trains given that much passenger business is “optional leisure travel”.
Lord Rosser said commuter travel will also become more “price sensitive” as home-working for at least part of the week is likely to become a permanent option for many.
Lady Vere said the 2.6% rise in fares is the lowest increase for four years and has been delayed for two months.
“But it is the case that taxpayers have been spectacularly generous to the railways in terms of their support over the Covid period.
“We must ensure that there is a good balance between the taxpayer and passengers,” she added.
The minister’s comments came as peers pressed for more flexible ticketing options for rail travellers after the lockdown is lifted.
Lady Vere said the Government is working closely with the industry on a range of initiatives to benefit passengers, including looking at solutions which offer “better value and convenience for those who commute flexibly”.
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