Rail fares and inflation are let rip – as wages and benefits are frozen or slashed

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RAIL commuters were protesting at Waterloo Station in London yesterday after they heard that ticket price rises of between 8% and 13% are to be imposed next year. This follows the release of the latest inflation figures, showing the CPI rate of inflation for July rising from 4.2% to 4.4%, and the RPI rate sticking at 5.0% – for the moment.

July’s RPI inflation figure, the higher rate, determines the rise in regulated fares, like season tickets.

This means that the average season ticket will rise by around 8%.

The rises are part of the coalition government’s drive to reduce the multi-billion cost of government subsidies for the privatised rail network.

For the last few years the formula for fare increases has generally been RPI inflation plus 1%, but for the next three years it is to be RPI plus 3%.

Train companies are however allowed to increase fares by another 5% on top, as long as that is allegedly balanced with reductions elsewhere.

Alexandra Woodsworth from the Campaign for Better Transport commented: ‘Affordable rail travel is vital for passengers, for the environment and for workers.’ She added: ‘These massive fare rises will be a disaster for people already struggling with rising costs, and risk pricing those on lower incomes out of jobs in our major cities.

‘The country simply can’t afford fare rises on such a punitive scale. It’s time to burst the bubble of inflation-busting fare hikes.’

It is clear that the only viable policy for the rail network is for it to be renationalised and put under the control of workers and passengers.

However, the coalition statement from the rail minister insisted that it ‘has had to take some very difficult decisions on future rail fares but the long-term solution is to get the cost of running the railways down’ in order to ‘get a better deal for passengers and taxpayers’.

This is a recipe for wage cutting, job cutting, even more crowded trains and line closures.

The UK government’s CPI rate of inflation rose in July, to 4.4% following higher prices for clothing, footwear, furniture, household equipment and housing rent and rising bank charges.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure, which includes food and housing costs, was unchanged at 5%.

This means that not just rail travellers, but the entire working class and middle class are going to see their wages, and benefits slashed, and their families pauperised as the inflation rate drives upwards, rationing the purchasing of the key necessities that families cannot do without.

This crisis is more and more combined with the world wide economic catastrophe that is developing and threatening a major slump.

There is the deepening crisis of the US economy and the dollar, the threatening financial collapse of the euro currency and the eurozone, and yesterday’s shock news from Germany that succeeded in rattling the already fearful stock markets of the world.

This was that the German economy, the alleged power-house of the EU, saw an increase in output of just 0.1 per cent for the second quarter. This is a disaster for the entire EU.

It is clear that the only way out of this crisis for workers and youth, rail commuters included, is to get rid of the bankrupt capitalist system and replace it with a planned socialist economy – including the renationalised rail, transport and energy industries – that will be based on satisfying people’s needs, not the needs of greedy speculators and bankers.

This task requires a socialist revolution.