Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 29th August 2018

I’ve written about the railways quite a bit in the past. Like many Crawley residents, I commute to work by train and consequently get a twice-daily reminder of the state of one of our nation’s essential services.

Much can and has been said of Southern’s appalling management and their crazy franchising deal with the Government which is so poorly designed it offers no incentive for improving the quality of services, only reducing them. Yet another case of Conservatives selling off on the cheap the national inheritance previous generations worked so hard to pass down to us.

We could write about the desperate need for investment in the Brighton Main Line, without which trains leaving Brighton will be full all the way to London, with no room whatsoever at Three Bridges by 2040. Since works will take two decades to complete, we’re running out of time to secure funding if we’re going to ensure Crawley residents can commute in the future.

Yet, these issues aren’t why I’m writing about railways today. This month, the Government confirmed railway fares will rise by 3.2%; what business is it of theirs? Well, ticket prices are regulated, so it is fully within the Government’s power to tell the companies what they can and cannot charge. For Crawley residents this means the price of a season ticket from Three Bridges to London will be £1,014 more than when the Conservatives took power in 2010, one of the biggest increases in the country.

These increases are far greater than inflation and mean railway companies can continue to pay their bosses and shareholders astounding amounts while failing the exact same passengers they are hitting in the pocket. The Conservatives are allowing businesses to exploit their monopoly position against the interests of ordinary people, that’s wrong.

There is an alternative. Fares could be linked to inflation, the areas most affected by train company failures could see their prices frozen and we could allow franchises to lapse, enabling the country to take back control of their railways at no cost to the taxpayer. Impressive and all of which Labour has already committed to deliver.

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