12 May our Train Bunting petition being used to challenge Transport Secretary Philip Hammond
We donned hot-off-the-press Fair Fares Now T-shirts, held placards bearing messages from passengers about the impacts of high fares on their lives, and draped 50 metres of bunting in the shape of train carriages (made by Craftivists and passengers over the past few months in station waiting rooms across the country) around the entrance to the building. As senior industry figures filed in to the high level conference to discuss the forthcoming McNulty review on reducing the costs of running our railways, they each received a copy of our ‘to-do’ list, setting out what we think needs to happen to make fares fair.
Just before the event was due to start, Philip Hammond arrived to give the keynote speech. We told him that passengers are fed up with eye-watering fare hikes and broken promises, and shared our concerns about the impact of expensive fares on the environment and on people living on low incomes. And, or course, we gave him his to-do list and the fair fares petition (see photos here).
Alexandra from Better Transport then made a quick change, and slipped into the building after the Minister, to hear what he had to say. He admitted that fares were already too expensive, and said he recognises the ‘pain’ that fare rises would cause to passengers. He also acknowledged the fact that high fares damage our economic competitiveness, putting British businesses at a disadvantage against their European neighbours. He said that he hoped in future that fares could stay in line with inflation, rather than rise above it, and that savings made as a result of the McNulty review should be shared between passengers and taxpayers.
In short, he went the furthest yet in acknowledging the concerns of passengers and of the Fair Fares Now campaign. I was particularly pleased that he committed to a full review of the fare structure, which has been an aim of ours for over a year now.
But the bottom line is that he still plans to raise fares by 28% over the next four years. In the face of dangerous climate change, we need to cut fares below inflation, not just keep them in line with it. It’s not good enough to ‘feel passengers’ pain’ – Philip Hammond has the power to reduce the burden on passengers, and he needs to use it. The upcoming review of the fare structure is our opportunity to make fares cheaper, simpler and fairer – so join the campaign, and look out for more protests like today’s as we make our voices heard.