Chris Grayling defends Qatar trip amid anger over rail fare hikes

Written by Emilio Casalicchio and Tom Freeman on 3 January 2018 in News

UK Transport Minister Chris Grayling says his trip to Qatar "doesn't make any difference" to rail fare hikes

Chris Grayling - PA

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has insisted he has not "shirked" the issue of above-inflation rail fare hikes despite taking in a three-day trip to the middle east.

Rail travellers face an average 3.4 per cent increase in ticket costs as they returned to work after the Christmas break today, with many season tickets up by around £100.

Scotrail has put up fares by an average of 3.2 per cent, the biggest rise in five years.

Grayling was accused of "hiding" after it emerged he had departed for a previously unannounced three day charm offensive with ministers and business bosses in the Middle East.

Downing Street was at first unable to explain why he had taken the trip.

But after touching down in Qater yesterday, he told LBC radio: “The fare increase was announced a month ago and I’ve actually done radio interviews about it and answered questions in the House of Commons.

“I don’t think I’ve shirked the issue, but I think it’s really important we get out and try and win business for Britain.

“Today, my presence in the country doesn’t make any difference - I can make a difference trying to help Britain get more jobs."

The Department for Transport later said his planned meetings were to "promote the UK overseas, support British jobs and strengthen the important relationship between the two countries".

A spokesperson added: "This trip has been specifically arranged to take place outside of Parliamentary time. The Secretary of State has repeatedly answered questions on this issue, ever since fare increases were first announced by the industry in August.”

A spokesman for Theresa May meanwhile said Mr Grayling was “working hard and doing a good job” - despite rumours he is in line for the chop in an expected Cabinet reshuffle this month.

Scottish Labour said real terms pay has increased by just 1.8 per cent since January 2013 – but regulated rail fares have increased 12.7 per cent over the same period.

The party's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Colin Smyth, said: “Passengers in this country already pay some of the highest fares in Western Europe and now ticket prices are going up again.

“Rail fares have increased faster than wages over the last five years and that is unacceptable, particularly given the ongoing delays, cancellations and overcrowding rail users experience with ScotRail.

“Scottish Labour would take ScotRail back into public ownership and deliver a people’s railway that puts passengers first.” ​



Related Articles

Brexit and Scotland's rural economy
21 June 2018

Concern over challenges faced by rural communities have been long-running, but with Brexit on the horizon, new ones have emerged

Campaigners urge ministers to ensure National Investment Bank boosts low carbon infrastructure
15 December 2017

Environmental campaigners welcomed plans for £340m in capital funding for the National Investment Bank, while urging ministers to ensure it helps develop Scotland’s low carbon...

Scottish and UK governments dispute devolution of APD
5 October 2017

Scottish Government announces plans have been complicated by the need for exemptions afforded to the Highlands and Islands to be assessed by the European Commission

Related Sponsored Articles

Share this page