Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Wednesday, 5 September 2012 16:20 UK

UK rail fares 'subsidising cheaper tickets overseas'

Rising rail fares in the UK are being used to subsidise cheaper fares on state-owned railways in other EU member states, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has said.

Opening an opposition day debate on rail fares on 5 September 2012, she gave examples of "so-called" private rail companies operating in the UK that had close ties to nationalised rail companies based overseas.

"The Chiltern and CrossCountry rail services are run by subsidiaries of Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway," she said.

"Southeastern, London Midland, TransPennine, Southern, are all run in partnership with subsidiaries of SNCF, the French state railway; and Greater Anglia and Northern Rail are run by a subsidiary of Ned Rail, the Dutch state railway.

"So let's be clear, the ability of so-called private train companies to hike rail fares... doesn't just mean additional profits, as the National Audit Office has warned, but it means additional dividends from those profits going back to the state railways of France, Germany and of the Netherlands.

"The consequence - fares that are on average a third lower on their domestic rail networks than on our own."

She called on MPs to back Labour's motion stating that the rising cost of rail travel is adding to the financial pressures facing many households, and calling on the government to restore the 1% above-inflation cap on annual fare rises for 2013 and 2014.

In his first Commons contribution as Transport Secretary, former Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin insisted there was no easy answer to the rising cost of train travel, with fare increases necessary to pay for upgrades on the railways.

Rejecting Labour's motion, Mr McLoughlin said: "A relentless focus on efficiency will help us put an end to the above-inflation increases at the earliest opportunity."

At the end of the debate, MPs voted against the motion by 294 votes to 231, a government majority of 63.

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