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Unions protest as rail fares rise

UK passengers spend more of their wages on rail than commuters elsewhere in Europe, research from the TUC and Action for Rail (AfR) campaign indicates.

The analysis shows that a UK worker on an average salary wanting to commute from St Albans into London St Pancras would have to spend nearly 14% of their monthly wages on a season ticket. Similar journeys in Germany and France cost around 4% of workers’ salaries.

The research is published as regulated rail fares rise today by an average of 2.8%, in line with RPI.

The unions warned that privatisation is costing passengers more, and that a move to a publicly owned railway could cut fares.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rail passengers and taxpayers are being poorly served by a privatised rail service that has failed to deliver any of the efficiency, investment and cost savings that privatisation cheerleaders promised.

“While the shareholders of the private train operating companies are doing well for themselves on the back of massive public subsidies, passengers are paying the highest share of their wages on rail fares in Europe. Rail passengers must wonder why they can’t have the same cheap and more efficiently run state rail services that exist elsewhere in Europe.”

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan added: “It cannot be right that passengers are being forced – because they have no meaningful choice – to pay through the nose just to get to where they work.

“These new fare rises are only going to exacerbate the problem and drive even more people into transport poverty.”

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “2014 is all set to be another year of racketeering and greed on Britain’s privatised railways. The only solution – and one that’s opposed by all our main political parties – is total renationalisation and the return of our railways to complete public control.”

And TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “David Cameron has increased rail fares by 20% since arriving in Downing Street – an intolerable burden on passengers who have seen their real wages fall over the same period.

“Rail fares have more than doubled since the Conservatives sold off our railways 20 years ago. Our passengers are now paying the price – the highest fares in Europe.”

Unite National Officer Julia Long said: “UK commuters spending over three times more of their salary on rail fares than European workers is proof that rail privatisation is a busted flush and that Britain needs national rail under public ownership.”

But Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We strongly support the Government’s decision to limit the average increase in Season ticket prices this year. This, combined with the determination of train companies to continue attracting passengers, means the average increase across all fares is 2.8%, the lowest in four years. To help the Government hold down fares in future, the rail industry is working hard to get more for every pound it spends.

“This year and in coming years, passengers across the country will continue to benefit from billions of pounds spent on improving services. As well as introducing more carriages, work will proceed on major projects like the new Birmingham New Street station and thousands of smaller, less visible schemes to improve the railway.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Ricp   02/01/2014 at 22:32

Basically these high fares are in effect a tax on rail travel. This needs very thorough research to see how much subsidy boosts operator profits and is creamed off to pay the Government Premium on many of the routes in the UK. Rail passengers are being ripped off! Claims that all of the monies raised with the higher fares are going to improvements also need to be evaluated and questioned.

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