As a town which will expand by more than 56,000 homes, Northampton will be fundamental to the Government’s growth agenda. But Mr Binley is concerned that the contradiction between encouraging people to make their homes in the town whilst allowing commuting costs to become increasingly prohibitive is unsatisfactory. He commented: "Northampton will be a town which experiences significant growth in the coming years, and it is vital that we ensure that those 120,000 additional residents, some of whom will commute, are able to afford a reasonable standard of living. If we are not careful, this could become de-railed at an early stage – and looks incoherent and unsustainable".
The cost of an annual season ticket from Northampton to London Euston has increased to £4,756; rising to £5,628 for those commuters who need to use London underground services to get to work. Combined with an annual car parking season ticket at Northampton station (priced at £815), the MP is concerned that the proportion of income his constituents are being asked to expend on getting to and from work by train is excessive.
In writing to the Transport Secretary, Mr Binley said: "the rail industry’s assertions that the Government decision that passengers should bear the brunt of the costs of the industry – rather than tax-payers – is not an excuse for them to extort ever-larger sums from struggling commuters, whilst ignoring their own imperative to get to grips with their own costs and inefficiencies".
He continued: "the McNulty Review into the rail industry’s approach to managing its own costs and efficiencies found that this is the only sector which, once privatised, has seen an increase in its unit costs: that is just not acceptable. It is time for the railway industry to grow up and take responsibility for its own cost base – rather than looking for ever-larger bail-outs through tax-payer subsidy or eye-watering prices for rail fares".
In conclusion, he warned: "the effect of doing nothing will be seriously harmful to our economy; and, I share the anger and frustration of passengers who see an industry too quick to make excuses, and far too slow to address its own issues – in a way that would pose questions of survival for many of those who work elsewhere in the private sector".
Labelling the situation where commuters are forced to pay nearly a quarter of their income on travelling as obscene, Mr Binley stresses that the Government risks appearing detached or indifferent unless it is seen to be pro-active in forcing the rail industry to tackle its costs: "it is time that the rail industry grew up, and stopped its quest endlessly to find someone else to pay the price of its own inadequacies and do what any other business would have to do just to survive".