Latest Rail News

18.08.15

Unions protest ‘rocketing’ rail fares

Rail unions are protesting today (18 August) in stations across the UK in response to claims by TUC that rail fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages over the last five years.

Their analysis found that fares increased by 25% while average wages only went up 9% between 2010 and 2015.

The protests, held at London Waterloo and other stations in England and Scotland, were planned for the same day as the government’s announcement that regulated fares will rise by 1% from January 2016 based on the retail price index (RPI) figure for July.

Campaigners will distribute postcards to passengers emphasising the “huge cost” of rail privatisation.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Rail fares have rocketed over the last five years leaving many commuters seriously out of pocket.

“If ministers really want to help hard-pressed commuters, they need to return services to the public sector. This is a fair, more sustainable option and it would allow much bigger savings to be passed on to passengers. Introducing an arbitrary cap on fares is simply passing the bill on to taxpayers. The government wants the public to subsidise train companies’ profits and bear the cost of the fares cap.”

The unions cited research by Transport for Quality of Life suggesting that £1.5bn could be saved over the next five years if routes were returned to the public sector. The study, commissioned by union-backed renationalisation campaign Action for Rail, stated that £520m could be saved from reclaiming money private TOCs pay in dividends to shareholders, calculated to have been around £183m in 2013-14. It added that season tickets could be 10% cheaper by 2017 if the rail industry was run by the public sector.

And despite government promises to freeze regulated rail prices during this parliament, the TUC said the cap will cost taxpayers about £700m over the next five years, citing Department for Transport figures.

Mick Cash, RMT’s general secretary, said: “While train companies threaten to throw guards off their services and axe station staff who are essential for safety, turning the network into a paradise for criminals and yobs, they are milking the travelling public for all they can through extortionate fees.

“Every penny of the fare rip-off is sucked out of the system in fat company profits, while crucial rail maintenance and upgrade works are shelved for lack of funds.”

Figureheads from other unions, such as TSSA, Aslef and Unite, claimed England has the most expensive fares in Europe and have “risen by over 200% on the most popular routes since privatisation 20 years ago”.

However a spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, representing TOCs and Network Rail, said the union’s figures were “highly questionable” and ignored the “crucial role private operators play in delivering this vital public service.”

He added: “Attracted by discounts and better services, passengers have doubled in the last 20 years, helping to generate around £2bn a year that train companies pay government to invest in a better railway.”

Research also released today by Campaign for Better Transport found that England is “lagging way behind Europe” on flexible rail tickets despite over 8 million people working part time and 4.2 million working from home.

Out of 21 countries, 20 had flexible ticketing to make commuting more affordable for part-time workers, including Northern Ireland, Germany and France.

The campaign group argued that, if a four day a week annual season ticket was available at four-fifths the price of a regular ticket, it would save nationwide passengers hundreds of pounds.

Comments

Neil Palmer   18/08/2015 at 15:33

Mick Cash isn't going to help his cause spouting outright lies like this: “Every penny of the fare rip-off is sucked out of the system in fat company profits, while crucial rail maintenance and upgrade works are shelved for lack of funds.” Most of the money goes back to government. TOC's earn an average of around 3%. Frankly I don't know why they bother, you could pretty much earn the same (or higher) return investing in the financial markets, instead of keeping Mick's union members employed. As to the claim nationalisation is the cure - Network Rail is effectively nationalised, how are they at managing money and getting things done on time Mick? Shoots a big whole through your fatuous argument doesn't it.

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