Suffolk/Ipswich: MP Ben Gummer to lead the calls for no 3.5% rail fare increases

Ben Gummer and Patrick McLoughlin at Ipswich station Ben Gummer and Patrick McLoughlin at Ipswich station

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
6:00 AM

Ipswich MP and rail campaigner Ben Gummer is to lead the battle by commuters against possible rail fare increases next year.

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He is to seek a meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to demand that there should be no 3.5% increase on rail fares on the Great Eastern Main Line between the region and the capital.

The threat of the rise loomed after the publication of July’s inflation figures yesterday.

The rail industry is allowed to increase the cost of its regulated tickets – season tickets and standard off-peak tickets – by the Retail Prices Index(RPI) increase in July plus 1%.

That means the 2.5% inflation rate in July could trigger rises of 3.5% in January.

However there is already speculation that the Chancellor could announce changes to this formula at the Conservative Party Conference at the end of September or during the government’s autumn statement in December.

With the General Election set for May next year, there is an expectation that the government may announce the rise can only be in line with inflation – or even that fares will be frozen in 2015.

However Mr Gummer is not prepared to wait until then for news. He said: “I will be contacting the Chancellor to say that increases of 3.5% are totally unacceptable to travellers from Ipswich.

“It is not right to keep putting up prices like this while the service is one of the worst in the country.

“The trains are old and the infrastructure has serious problems associated with it – and yet the price per mile is more in this part of the country than almost anywhere else in Britain.”

Mr Gummer is one of the leading members of the East Anglian Rail Task Force which is pressing for major improvements to the track and rolling stock in this region.

However travellers will have to wait – work on a new track between Chelmsford and Witham that is seen as vital will not start until 2019 at the earliest, and new trains will have to wait until a new long-term rail franchise is awarded in 2016.

His Labour opponent in next year’s general election, council leader David Ellesmere, agreed that a fare increase for passengers would be wrong – but felt the Conservatives were just chasing votes.

He said: “I suspect Mr Gummer would not have made this statement unless he was confident that the Chancellor is going to freeze fares.

“It is not right to increase fares in January, and it would not be right to increase them until there is real investment coming through with new trains and major infrastructure improvement.

“It is also noticeable that the government uses the RPI figure to fix rail fares but the Consumer Prices Index(CPI) – which is usually lower – to fix how much benefits should increase.”

Last month the RPI went up by 2.5% but the CPI went up by only 1.6%. If that was used to fix fares, commuters would be looking at an average increase of 2.6% rather than 3.5%.

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman said: “Government decides the average change to regulated rail fares, including season tickets, each year.

“The details of changes to rail fares will be confirmed later in the year.

“We recognise and share the importance that rail passengers place on value for money and improving train services in our region, and we’re working with our stakeholder partners on initiatives including the taskforce which has been established to make the case for greater investment in the Norwich to London mainline.

“We have also worked with the Department for Transport to secure a £20 million investment in a package of service enhancements to be delivered during the current franchise to October 2016, including a major refresh of the carriages on our Norwich to London intercity services, and more capacity.

“We will also continue to build a positive case for the next long franchise to help in bringing about the major enhancements to rolling stock and infrastructure for the East Anglia rail network that we all wish to see.”

East Anglia: Passengers have faced months of problems

Rail passengers on the Great Eastern Main Line between the region and London have faced months of problems during the summer.

The spate of problems began when engineering work overran at Colchester station on May 19, causing chaos for commuters returning to work in London after the weekend.

Since then there have been several other infrastructure-related problems, with signalling issues at Liverpool Street and elsewhere on the main line.

There was another engineering overrun at Ipswich last Monday which caused more misery for commuters at the end of the weekend.

There have also been a number of tragedies on the tracks – every time someone is struck by a train there has to be an initial investigation and emergency services have to be called to remove them from the line.

This causes major disruption.

Passengers have also faced problems caused by problems with trains – some services have been withdrawn at short notice because of mechanical problems and a frequent complaint is that trains have been cut from 12 to eight carriages, making it much more difficult for passengers to find seats.

All these problems prompted the managing directors of Network Rail in East Anglia Richard Schofield and Abellio Greater Anglia Jamie Burles to write a letter of apology to passengers last week.

They have pledged to try to iron out problems with the service – but in the meantime passengers are becoming increasingly irritated and the prospect of an above-inflation fare hike in the new year will do little to ease their anger.

12 comments

  • Since the Tories privatised. Railways, water, energy, prices have gone up and up , 4050% where was Mr Gummer then?

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    richard procter

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

  • What a surprise, an election looming and all of a sudden he is against the rises.

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    Esco Fiasco

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Ben clearly realises that the rise will hit commuters hard in the pocket and therefore it is only right that he campaigns against a rise in prices. Ben has campaigned hard for improvements in railway services and secured millions of pounds in investment and the promise of more high speed journies to London to come. The reason he has made this such a priority is because he realises that getting rid antiquated infrastructurerolling stock and reducing journey times will make Ipswich much more attractive to investors. There is a long way to go, Rome wasn't built in a day but I for one have faith in Ben and the other local MPs to do the right thing in regards to our railways.

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    Muzza

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • I remember Anglain water putting up their prices saying it was for investment, now making millions of profit, directors on million pound salaries, now rail companies saying the same, good old tories, next the NHS, watch and see,

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    this is what we pay tax for

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • What is he saying to his Dad about it, I wonder? Wasn't Mr Gummer senior, part of the Tory government that was determined to rush through the disastrous privatisation bills while it still could?

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    blue&white

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Renationalise the railways and put an end to the misery caused by your party Mr Gummer.

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    Origami Penguin

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Ben doesn't care. He travels first class and we pay for his tickets.

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    Ipswich Man

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Sounds like Ben doesn't expect to be relected on his record so far and is desperately clutching at straws.

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    amsterdam81

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Perhaps he should spend his time and energy in getting the rolling stock and services, in the East, up to the standard that the rest of the UK enjoys.

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    R2 D2

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Yes Mr Gummer should remember as a marginal seat that there are more non commuters in Ipswich than Commuters. The 2% above inflation figure is an attempt to correct the fact that the rest of us are subsidising rail journeys to London by about 50%. So I think those earning big money in London should have to pay their travel costs, nobody offers me petrol money or bus fare for me to get to work in Ipswich. If you don't earn enough in London to cover your train fare then you should either get a payrise of your employer or move jobs for more money or stop working in London or move closer like Barking or Ilford to lessen your costs. Stop winging I can not see when we are cutting help to the old and vunerable in social services as a country we should be coughing up to pay for commuters travel costs. Pay your way, since most will be good old Torry voters they beleive in that dont they ? Or is it only when the government hand out goes to them that they vote for it and complain when it gets cut.

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    The Ginge

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Crocodile Tears. as a party the Tories privatise the railways then crow about it when the companies increase prices to make a profit. no surprise the Mp's response as in a marginal seat with General Election looming

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    mally

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Well good luck with that one,Ben.

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    Tony G

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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