Ministers deny trying to profit from commuters as fares rise

Ministers today denied trying to make a profit out of commuters as train fares rose once again across the UK.

Government regulated rail fares went up by an average of 3.1 per cent today, making UK commuters some of the most hard-pressed in Europe.

Research released today found that a typical London commuter now pays around 14 per cent of their income on a monthly rail pass.

This compares to just four per cent of a commuter's income for equivalent journeys in Germany France and Spain, according to research by the TUC.

Further analysis by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) found that rail fares are expected to more than cover the railway's operating costs by 2018.

The government today denied they were trying to profit from commuters.

"The key thing is the Campaign for Better Transport is a lobby group," rail minister Stephen Hammond told the Today Programme.

"It's used a set of numbers. We'll see if those numbers are verified, but I'm not interested in making a profit out of passengers."

Chancellor George Osborne has pegged rail fares to inflation for the first year since 2004 meaning that today's overall fare rise is just 2.8%.

However, fares are expected to rise higher than inflation in future years as the government sticks to it's long-term plan to reduce the government's overall subsidy of rail fares.

Labour claimed the rises were a further sign of the "cost of living crisis" in the UK. However, government sources pointed out that the decsions to raise fares above inflation was first brought in by Labour ten years ago.

Unions today called on the government to take the railways back into public ownership, after polling found that 66% of the public now support renationalisation.

"Rail passengers and taxpayers are being poorly served by a privatised rail service that has failed to deliver any of the efficiency, investment and cost savings that privatisation cheerleaders promised," TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said.

"While the shareholders of the private train operating companies are doing well for themselves on the back of massive public subsidies, passengers are paying the highest share of their wages on rail fares in Europe.

"Rail passengers must wonder why they can’t have the same cheap and more efficiently run state rail services that exist elsewhere in Europe."

Rail and bus services run by London mayor Boris Johnson did not rise today, following a communication breakdown between City Hall and the Treasury.

London fares are now expected to rise on January 19th instead, costing Transport for London millions in lost revenue.