The government expects the number of commuters from Brighton and Hove to go up even though train fares will rise faster than inflation over the next few years.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, asked the Conservative Transport Secretary Philip Hammond about the effect of fare rises on commuter numbers.
Her question followed an announcement by the chancellor, George Osborne, when he set out the results of the comprehensive spending review last Wednesday.
Mr Osborne said that fares can go up by inflation plus 1 per cent from January and by inflation plus 3 per cent in January 2012, 2013 and 2014.
This means that commuters face a rise of between 5 per cent and 6 per cent in January, with the government using the retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation.
Early estimates suggest that fares could rise by about 8 per cent a year over the three years from 2012.
Tory Transport Minister Theresa Villiers replied in writing to Caroline Lucas, saying: “Although passenger growth slowed during the economic downturn, the resumption of economic growth has seen passenger numbers increasing and we expect this trend to continue.”
Labour shadow transport minister Andrew Gwynne, the MP for Denton and Reddish, criticised the coalition over rail fares in a Commons debate in Westminster Hall last week.
He pointed out that the coalition’s programme for government stated that they were “committed to fair pricing for rail travel”.
He said that the cost of a typical commuter season ticket between Brighton and London could increase from £3,104 a year to £4,260 by 2015.
He said: “That is particularly ironic as Norman Baker, who is now a transport minister, was elected on a pledge in the Liberal Democrat manifesto on train fares for RPI minus 1 per cent.”