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Grayling under fire amid major rail fare rises
January 04, 2018
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LONDON: Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has come under fire for jetting off on a ministerial visit to Gulf as commuters faced the largest hike to rail fares in five years.

Protests were planned at stations across the UK over the price rises, which mean passengers are paying up to £2,500 more for their annual season tickets than they did in 2010.

Labour accused Grayling of “going into hiding” rather than defending the rise tied to last July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which will see fares rise by 3.4 per cent on average, and season tickets going up by 3.6 per cent.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald was also prevented from campaigning in Leeds over rail fares - because his train broke down on the journey there.

Downing Street confirmed that Grayling was on a two-day visit to the Gulf state where he will meet the Prime Minister and other senior politicians, as well as several senior business figures.

Asked about the timing of the trip, Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “The fare rises we have known were coming for a while and the Department for Transport [Dft] has issued a full statement responding to those rises.”

The “pre-planned” trip was scheduled to take place outside of parliamentary time, according to the DfT, however critics seized on the news as a sign of Grayling trying to avoid angry commuters.

McDonald said: “Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has gone into hiding, unable to defend today’s 3.6 per cent fares hike and refusing to explain the £2 billion taxpayer bailout of Virgin East Coast. Passengers deserve better than this.”

After his train broke down, McDonald posted a series of tweets where he compared his stalled train to the “broken” Conservative government.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: “Rail passengers are shivering on platforms angered by the biggest fare increase in years while Chris Grayling is off globetrotting.

“It’s very difficult to see what useful function he can perform in Gulf and Turkey that our excellent trade officials could not.”

It comes amid speculation that Grayling could be among the ministers at risk in a forthcoming cabinet reshuffle, as May is reportedly considering shaking up her top team after First Secretary of State Damian Green was forced to resign before Christmas.

The Independent

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