Winning the election street by street – and station by station too

by Michael Dugher

It’s the first time since the 1920s that working people will be worse off at the end of a parliament than they were at the beginning”. That was how Ed Miliband summed up the cost-of-living crisis that continues to engulf hard working families across the country in his big speech earlier this week.  And this was brought into sharp focus for rail commuters returning to work last week who’ve seen their fares go up by more than 20 per cent since David Cameron became prime minister.

Ed Miliband is determined that Labour will speak to four million people before polling day in this year’s general election. That’s why Labour’s transport team have been out in recent weeks talking to the hard-pressed members of travelling public at bus and railway stations up and down the country.

This week I was with Labour’s brilliant local candidate Matt Turmaine at Watford Junction railway station where commuters are having to dip even deeper into their pockets just to get to work on increasingly overcrowded trains.  Season tickets from London to Watford junction have increased by £528 since 2010 – a rise of 22 per cent. Commuters further up the London Midland line travelling from Milton Keynes have endured a 28 per cent hike – an increase of over £1000 – something Labour’s Andrew Pakes and Emily Darlington have recently exposed.

On top of this, people across the country have been hit with stealth fare rises. The government has imposed fare rises on the Northern franchise of up 162 per cent. In my own constituency, in Barnsley East, we have been clobbered by increases of up to 25 per cent, as the government has allowed the operator to extend peak hours. At the opposite end of the country, in Brighton we have revealed government plans for more stealth fare rises on the Brighton main line through eliminating cheaper tickets, which could leave some passengers paying £664 more for their season tickets.

In the new year, I was campaigning with the rail trade unions at Kings Cross station highlighting, amongst other things, how in passengers in the UK spend more than twice as much of their salary on rail fares than most European passengers.

All of this followed the rail chaos of the Christmas and new year period. Ministers went AWOL as they allowed 17 operators to run no services at all, with vastly reduced services being the norm elsewhere on Boxing Day. The next day, and into the weekend, overrunning works caused chaos on the network, leaving mainline stations such as Kings Cross and Paddington closed and thousands of passengers stranded. Back up plans, like using Finsbury Park, were found to be unworkable. As this station was closed, it left queues of passengers trying to get home after the Christmas period standing in the freezing cold with little or no information.

And the misery for commuters has carried on this week. Earlier this week, we saw massive disruption for days at London stations such as London Bridge and Waterloo – a world away from what out-of-touch Ministers have called “comfortable commuting”.

The rail industry is clearly in desperate need of change.  Firstly on fares: I want to see a better deal for passengers. That’s why Labour has committed to simplifying an overly complicated fares system, introducing a new legal right for passengers to get the lowest possible fares, as well as introducing a strict cap on fares on all routes.

But we also need other big changes. That is why Labour will review the franchise system as a whole and allow public sector operators to take and on challenge the private sector. We will also ensure a new strong passenger voice is introduced through a new ‘guiding mind’ for the railways, a co-ordinating body for the whole industry.

But of course we know that train fare rises are just one aspect of the cost-of-living crises people are currently facing.  Overall, working people are now £1,600 a year worse off under this government. In public transport, we know it isn’t just the railways that are a rip-off under David Cameron. Over 1,300 bus routes have been cut since 2010, whilst fares have gone up by 25 per cent – that’s an increase five times faster than wage growth.  That is why Labour has said we want to regulate the bus market to give local communities London-style bus powers to set fares and routes.

That is also why Ed Milband set out again this week we should be: supporting working people and making work pay by raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour before 2020; banning exploitative zero-hours contracts; introducing tough and fair immigration controls; freezing energy bills until 2017; expanding free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week; and introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax.

The truth is, like with the banks or the energy companies, David Cameron can always be relied upon to stand up for the wrong people. As Ed Miliband put it last week: “Imagine what another five years would mean for you and your family?”

So as rail commuters went back to work last week and queue at the ticket machines where fares that have risen more than three times faster than average wages, the question is can they really afford five more years of this Government? The answer is undoubtedly no. Convincing people that it doesn’t have to be like this, that the country can do better than this, is one of Labour’s task in the coming weeks and months.

Ed Miliband talks about winning the election street by street. In transport, that means taking our message out there station by station too.

Michael Dugher is Member of Parliament for Barnsley East and shadow secretary of state for transport

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8 Responses to “Winning the election street by street – and station by station too”

  1. Dave Roberts. says:

    Not a single mention of immigration. The issues highlighted are of course important, the only problem is they are the same problems Labour did nothing about from 1997 until 2010. In fact some of the problems started under Labour.

    Labour simply has no track record to attack the Tories on with the issues raised, it was a bad or worse under Blair and Brown. Where Labour is weak is on immigration, they are seen as the party of open doors and unrestricted entry and I fear that this, plus a few scandals bubbling under, will be enough for them to lose.

  2. Roberrt says:

    I notice that Dugher does not actually say what will happen to fares if there is a Labour government.

  3. Michael Worcester says:

    Do Labour even think non-EU migration is a problem? If not then defend it. If yes then introduce a policy which would reduce immigration for non-EU countries where we have the power to change the rules.

    As far as I see it when the issue is raised the response it to say we will have more border guards to count them in (presumably with a cheery wave) and hope the questioner moves on to other subjects as stated in their UKIP defence paper.

    It is a woeful position on the electorates No 1 issue.

  4. paul barker says:

    Losing the Election Poll by Poll, last month the Labour lead averaged 3%, so far this month the average is just below 1%.
    On the topic, talk of millions of conversations might be more convincing if Labour were more open about Official Membership figures. Its not just the Tories who have been “hollowed out”.

  5. Landless Peasant says:

    Labour need to strongly spell out how they intend to redistribute the wealth and repair the damage done to us by these vicious Tory monsters. Start by pledging to abolish Benefit Sanctions and doubling the Dole.

  6. John P Reid says:

    Landless peasant, pure comedy gold,

    In all fairness to certain station closed over the holiday period, Westminster tube, shut xmas eve to, the 30th was due to engineering works, but where they could have seen the 2nd-4th as away of finishing engineering works if it ran over, as they usually do, they got it ready for New Years eve,

  7. John Reid says:

    Paul barker, during the New labour year region use to tme member for granted by just making sure every constituency got just enough help for region, so they could get MPs elected in non target middle class areas, rightly or wrongly Region are just obsessed with helping party members get MPs elected in target areas, it’s a mixture of not caring one jot about non winnables (in all fairness there’s no point trying there, but to give up on seats that it would take a majority of 70 too win,is a mistake) but region has given up on seats labour takes for granted in 2010 it was Thurrock,look what happened there, now Region don’t care about Dagenham

  8. John P Reid says:

    During th new Labour years, Blair and Brown let the membership dwindle as the structure of local party died, the vast amount of members meant that region didn’t care as They could still use the remaining members to canvass everywhere SUCCESSFULLY and control disunity when ,mistakes like Imposing their choice in London Mayor or Welsh assembly Chair ,Ed MILIBAND’s idea rightly or wrongly was to give up on non target constituencies and plough resources Into target ones, forgetting that non target areas still need to return votes for us in EU or Regional (Mayoral Scottish) elections, this may work at the election, but when we need to win seats to get us a working majority ,region just deciding too help non target wards later on, by introducing a campaign strategy or canvassing packs, won’t be enough (the 35% strategy)

    Mrs Thatcher understood Essex and Kent Man, plus could get seats in Birmingham Newcastle and Sheffield ,of course region is stretched,and labour forgot the working Class by 2010 to the point it was the first election more middle class voted Labour, but not having a party structure in non target areas is one thing, not trying to aspire to the lower middle class’s hopes and dreams is another, especially as these people a few years ago were working class themselves

    Dont people in council estates who’ve bought their homes, who consider themselves middle class, want decent defence, law and order policies, low inflation, be able to find their gas bills Reasonably priced,should we be able to work with business?

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