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Hampshire rail passengers propping up trains in Scotland and the north, says Southampton Itchen MP John Denham
HAMPSHIRE commuters are paying an unfair “train tax” to prop up rail services in Scotland and the north, a Southampton MP has protested.
John Denham has attacked the complicated system of rail subsidies, warning it punishes passengers in the south with higher fares.
His analysis shows the highest “tax” is paid by travellers on South West Trains services – 8.7p for every mile along the routes.
In total, the firm that runs trains between Hampshire and London paid £314m into a central pot in the 2012-13 financial year, Mr Denham’s research shows.
In that same year, huge subsidies were paid out to First Scotrail (£291m) and Northern Rail (£152m), with Arriva Trains Wales not far behind (£140m).
Mr Denham, the South-ampton Itchen MP said: “A massive unfairness has developed in railway funding. London commuters face the highest fares, spend the highest proportion of their incomes on getting to work – and have the lowest levels of satisfaction with the value for money they get.
“They can be forgiven for feeling they are paying over the odds to subsidise railways compared to passengers in other parts of Britain.”
The research by the House of Commons library comes after years of inflation-busting fare increases that have angered commuters.
Mr Denham pointed out that a season ticket to London Waterloo from Southampton Central costs just over £5,000 each year.
That fare will rise again in January by 3.2 per cent – and would have been higher but for last week’s surprise announcement to peg it to the RPI inflation rate.
Mr Denham added: “With many passengers spending up to a quarter of their income on train fares, it is time to review how the system works – with the aim of capping, and then reducing, the commuter train tax.”
The MP denied such a shake-up would require fares to rise in the heavily subsidised areas of the north, Scotland and Wales.
Instead, he suggested it could be achieved by “squeezing more out of train company profits”, or introducing tax subsidies in the hardest-hit areas.
But the Department for Transport defended the system of using popular routes to subsidise unpopular ones.
A spokesman said: “Those franchises that can generate more money are expected to pay back more into the public purse.”
In total, the likes of Hampshire commuters are paying in £1 billion through the price of their tickets – while those in the subsidised regions receive £650m.
Yet, only 33 per cent of South West Trains passengers say they are satisfied with their trains, Mr Denham said – far less than Scotrail (49 per cent) and Northern Rail (54 per cent).
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