Britain's opposition Labour to cut rail fares by a third

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LONDON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Britain's Labour Party said it would cut rail season tickets and peak time fares by a third, saving the average commuter more than 1,000 pounds ($1,280) a year, under its plan to return rail services to public ownership if it wins an election this month.

It said the move, which will apply to regulated fares that make up almost half of all tickets sold from January, would give relief to millions of rail commuters from years of price rises.

Labour has already proposed a host of crowd-pleasing plans - from help to parents with young children to free university education and more money for elderly care - to be paid for by more taxes on high earners and companies.

The rail fare cuts would cost 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) a year, Labour said, with the money coming from existing Department for Transport budgets funded by road tax.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Travelling by train is my favourite way of getting around the country but for too long a fragmented and privatised rail system has ripped-off passengers.

"Taking back control of our railways is the only way to bring down fares and create a railway network that is fit for the future."

The Conservatives said Labour was announcing another spending pledge that was not included in its manifesto or in its costings document.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the plan was "another desperate attempt from Labour to distract from their inability and unwillingness to be straight with people on where they stand on Brexit, and the fact they would raise taxes on low and middle income workers across the country".

"The Conservatives will improve punctuality by integrating parts of the rail network, make ticketing and pricing more transparent and will invest 500 million pounds in reopening branch lines closed under Labour," he said.

Regulated rails are due to rise by an average of 2.7% in January, taking the total increase since 2010 to 40%, more than twice the rate of increase in wages, Labour said.

The party said the lower fares would be available for part-time workers, while rail travel for those aged 16 and under would be free. ($1 = 0.7794 pounds) (Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by Louise Heavens)

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