Ticket costs make train travel ‘rich man’s toy’

RAIL fares are now so expensive the system has become a “rich man’s toy”, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has told MPs.

Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Committee, Mr Hammond said some of the ticket prices on routes like the west coast main line were “eye-wateringly expensive”.

But while he acknowledged that rail users had “significantly higher” average incomes than the population as a whole, he insisted it was right to invest in the network because of the wider economic benefits it brought.

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“Uncomfortable fact number one is that the railway is already relatively a rich man’s toy,” he said.

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

He described ticket prices on the west coast main line as ranging from “eye-wateringly expensive to really quite reasonable if you dig around and use the advance purchasing ticket options that are available”.

However, he insisted that even people who could not afford to travel by train would still benefit from projects such as the planned HS2 high-speed rail link between London and the north of England.

“If you are working in a factory in Manchester you might never get on HS2 but you would certainly be benefiting from it if the sales director from your company is routinely hopping on it to jet round the world from Heathrow in a way that brings in orders that keep you employed,” he said.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive 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.”