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Essex/Suffolk: East ‘cash cow’ for other rail regions

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 April 2013 | UPDATED: 11:39 20 April 2013

Archant © 2012

MPs last night called on the Government to ease the pressure on commuters after new figures showed passengers in the east were taking more of the financial strain than those elsewhere.

Witham MP Priti Patel and her Ipswich colleague Ben Gummer – who are leading calls for an improvement to rail services in the region – have said they are concerned because travellers in East Anglia are effectively subsidising those in the north of England.

New figures from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) show that in the Greater Anglia region the level of subsidy for the rail industry is one of the smallest in the country.

At just 16% of the total rail cost, it is just half the national average.

Mr Gummer said: “Effectively, you have those on low incomes in this part of the world subsidising the travel of those with low incomes in the north of the country.

“If the Government wants to subsidise rail travel in the north, it should do so directly, not by targeting commuters in this part of the country.”

Ms Patel added: “Everyone in the region is struggling with transport costs yet we are being asked to subsidise rail travellers in different parts of the country. The region is regarded as a cash cow used to bank-roll train services elsewhere.” Ms Patel pledged to press Government on the issue and said more money should be invested in the region’s rail services so “commuters get the service they deserve”.

These sentiments were echoed by Clacton MP Douglas Carswell, who said he knew of many students in Clacton who could not afford a train ticket to Colchester to attend college.

He said: “It’s the hidden nature of these subsidies that is disconcerting. Just because people live in a prosperous area they are having to pay extra for their travel. It’s unfair.”

The figures published today by the ORR show that during 2011/12 the total amount of passenger income in the Greater Anglia area was £548million.

Other income totalled £22m – and the train operating companies had to pay a premium of £90m for running the franchise.

The total amount train passengers pay for their tickets is going up while Government subsidy for the railways is falling, according to a report by regulators.

Nationally, ticket income from passengers was £7.2billion, an 8.7% increase on 2010/11.

This represented 57.6% of the industry’s total income for 2011/12, up from 55.8% the previous year.

The cost of running the railways in 2011/12 was around £11.6bn, an increase of 2.9%.

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “Governments have recently committed billions of pounds to improving Britain’s railways in the coming years.

“Taxpayers and rail customers have every right to know exactly where their money goes and what it delivers. Our report shines a light on the funding and growth of Britain’s railways, providing more detail than ever before.”

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