The Tories have slammed Labour for “verging on hypocrisy” because of an increase in rail fares in Wales.
Transport for Wales (TfW), which was recently nationalised by the Welsh Government after a drop in passenger numbers during the Covid-19 crisis, has announced that it is increasing some rail fares by 2.6 per cent from 1 March.
Russell George MS, the Shadow Minister for Economy, Transport and Mid Wales, has described the rise in fares as “inevitable”, but claimed that Labour “panned the same percentage rise” set out by the UK Government’s Department for Transport in England late last year.
Mr George said: “The irony, verging on hypocrisy, shown by Labour over this 2.6 per cent rise in fares for Transport for Wales passengers is shocking – especially with just a fortnight before the new fare structure is imposed.
“Labour panned the same percentage rise set out by the Department for Transport late last year, but instead of coming clean and making an announcement, the Welsh Government disclosed the rises not to Members of the Senedd and to the people of Wales, but to the media following their inquiries.
“Fares rises are, generally, inevitable, but so too it seems is Labour’s preference for hiding bad news and disclosing it to the press first.”
A spokesperson for Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said: “In Wales we are committed to supporting our national railway and to providing the vital services that passengers need.
“You can see this in the new £750m upgrade of the Metro we have recently started work on and in the £100m of additional emergency funding that we have made available just this year to keep our rail network running through the pandemic.
“Changing fares is never an easy decision, but it helps provide the investment for the vital infrastructure and services our economy and our communities need.”
Peter Kingsbury from pro-rail campaign group Railfuture Wales told the BBC: “Any fare increase above inflation needs to be accompanied by a range of initiatives to encourage the public to start using the trains again.
“These could include special offers to get people to consider using rail for days out and holidays once restrictions are lifted, and the introduction of flexible season tickets to allow commuters to still save on ticket costs if travelling to work less than five days a week.”
A TfW spokesperson claimed that imposing the same price rise as the Department for Transport in England would “keep fares simple for people travelling between Wales and the rest of the UK rail network”, and added that several cost saving schemes have been set up since 2018, which include free travel for children under 11, free off-peak travel for children under 16, and a 10 per cent reduction on fares to and from north Wales.
The spokesperson said: “Rail fares help us to fund our investment as affordably as possible for both rail passengers and taxpayers.
“We understand the need to bring people back to public transport when Covid-19 restrictions end and we’ll implement a price freeze on some of our rail products such as local Rover and Rangers, local Railcards and our SailRail product.”
The Welsh Government has been asked for a response.