Why the train travel is booming by Norman Baker MP

Rail travel is booming. We now have more passengers travelling each year than at any time since the 1920s so it is crucial that our railway infrastructure can keep pace.

With the Lib Dems in government we have announced the largest infrastructure investment programme since the 19th Century, including the provision of 130 new carriages for Southern with the government providing £80million towards that.

That is tangible investment that local passengers in Lewes, Polegate, Newhaven, Seaford and Eastbourne will see a benefit from.

It is investment that, frankly, we did not see under the last government which despite having ten years of above inflation rises managed to electrify just 9 miles of track in thirteen years.

We have already announced the electrification of 1 in 9 miles - that is over 850 miles.

But such investment does not come cheap and in this economic climate we simply cannot make the required improvements without asking the rail passenger to pay a little more, so in 2013 it was suggested that rail fares should rise by 3 per cent above inflation with the same rise again in 2014.

However, the proposed rise has concerned me, and many others in the Lib Dems, not least because rail revenue has remained buoyant and the Coalition has found resources to offset, on more than one occasion, the rise to fuel duty.

We have been working very hard, therefore, within government to try and minimise the rise to fares and I am pleased to confirm that this has been a success.

I can confirm that for 2013 and 2014 fares will rise in line with the formula of RPI+1 (1 per cent above inflation), in continuation of the policy started by the Labour government in 2004.

I am acutely aware that any rise is not ideal, but with the huge infrastructure investment and economic situation we inherited, minimising the increase to fares is good news and will benefit more than a quarter of a million annual season ticket holders and thousands more who use monthly or weekly season tickets.

I do want to be very clear, however, that I recognise that year on year above inflation rises cannot and should not be the long term future for rail passengers and with that in mind the Lib Dems remain wholly committed to ending above inflation rises just as soon as public finances allow.