Labour has accused the government of "clobbering commuters" by allowing train companies to ignore a cap on rail fare rises.
Maria Eagle said the coalition had broken its promise to hold down fare rises at 1% above inflation, telling MPs some tickets were rising "by as much as 9%".
The shadow transport secretary claimed that commuters on rush-hour trains will be forced to pay up to 40% more over the next five years under government plans for "super-peak tickets".
She pledged that a future Labour government would enforce in law a strict cap on fare rises to put commuters before train companies, as she led an opposition debate on the subject on 9 January 2013.
Replying for the government, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin accused Ms Eagle of trying to paint a picture of "utopia" on the railways under the previous Labour administration.
But he cited select committee reports from 2006 which accused the-then government of "breathtaking complacency about fairs and ticketing".
Ms Eagle conceded that the last Labour government should have been "bolder" when it came to confronting the train operators about rises in rail fares.
But she said that when times "got tough" in the face of the financial crisis in 2008 the government protected commuters by enforcing the cap on rail fares.
Mr McLoughlin said there had been a "record level of investment" in the railways under the coalition, adding that it was right for both passengers and the taxpayer to contribute.
Labour's motion would do nothing to help passengers or investment, the transport secretary argued.
MPs later rejected the opposition motion calling on the government to ban train operators from increasing fares beyond strict limits, by a majority of 74.