The Department consistently monitors how transport costs impact the cost of living and is investigating ways to reduce them further.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Of course we all know that petrol and diesel prices have hit record highs, and now the prospect of an embargo on Russian oil means they could increase further. Many of my constituents are struggling to fill up their tanks for essential use. The RAC has called on the Chancellor to reduce VAT on fuel costs, and many EU countries operate essential user fuel rebate schemes. What discussions has he had with the Chancellor about employing similar schemes and similar cuts in the UK?
At the spring statement, the Chancellor announced a temporary 12-month cut of 5p a litre in duty on petrol and diesel, to support motorists. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently wrote to the fuel companies to ensure that that cut was being passed on. Treasury Ministers continue to keep the matter under review and Transport Ministers continue to have regular conversations with Treasury Ministers about the importance of ensuring that motoring remains affordable.
The cost of rail travel could be reduced by maximising the income of the rail companies. On three of the four journeys that I took last week, there was no ticket inspection on the trains and none of the barriers were operational. Bearing in the mind the taxpayer support for the rail network, it is not only passengers who are being taken for a ride but the taxpayer. What will the Minister do to ensure that London North Eastern Railway, TransPennine and Grand Central—the guilty parties last week—maximise their income and reduce travel costs?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Revenue protection is of course incredibly important for all train operating companies. Taxpayers have put more than £16 billion into our railways during the course of the pandemic, so we need to continue to ensure that all operators do everything they can to maximise their revenues. I am interested to hear more details about not only my hon. Friend’s experience but that of other Members, because the Rail Minister—my hon. Friend Wendy Morton—and I are committed to ensuring that what my hon. Friend witnessed does not continue to happen.
Is the Minister aware of the huge costs for people who live in Wakefield and Huddersfield that have resulted from the fact that the small, regular and very good service between the two places was axed two years ago? It has meant that people have to travel in taxis and cars, which is much more expensive, so it is a disaster not only environmentally but financially. I was in Wakefield only on Saturday, and that is still a very important aspect of life and the cost of living for the people who live there.
I completely appreciate the importance of local rail services. We are working not only to restore rail services following the pandemic but, through things such as the restoring your railway scheme, to open new lines and services throughout the country. We continue to invest record amounts. As the lead on the integrated rail plan, I am particularly interested in ensuring that we get local services right throughout the north of England. I am happy to discuss with the Rail Minister the points the hon. Gentleman has raised, to see what more we can do in his area.
On Tuesday, we will see the opening of the fantastic Elizabeth line, which will run from east London right through the incredible town of Slough and on to Reading. It shows just what can be achieved when a Labour Government decide to make an ambitious public transport investment, as they did back in 2005 by introducing the Crossrail Bill. That stands in stark contrast to this Government, who are cutting services, jobs, safety checks and infra- structure projects throughout our rail network. The only thing they have increased is fares, and by eye-watering amounts. Will the Minister explain how huge cuts and huge fare hikes will do anything to get people back on to trains and to tackle the climate and cost of living crises?
Without wanting to test your patience with repetition, Mr Speaker, I emphasise again that the integrated rail plan in the midlands and the north is, at £96 billion, five times as big as the Crossrail project. I gently remind the shadow Minister of who the Mayor of London was when Crossrail was given the go-ahead and who the Prime Minister was when it opened. We are very proud of Crossrail and investing in London, but we are also very proud of investing in the midlands and the north.