RAIL fares are to rise by 1.9% in England, Scotland and Wales it was announced yesterday, with unions, campaigners and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn calling for the entire railway system to be re-nationalised.
The rise, determined by July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation measure, will take effect from January. The government insists on using the RPI index as opposed to the much lower Consumer Prices Index (CPI) to set rail fares. Demonstrations took place at rail stations up and down the country.
Rail fares have increased at double the speed of wages since 2010, according to new analysis also released yesterday by the TUC and the rail unions’ Action for Rail campaign. The TUC analysis shows that rail fares have already risen by 25% in the last six years, while average weekly earnings have only grown by 12%.
As fares for passengers rise, dividends paid to shareholders of private train companies have risen by 21% in the last year to £222 million. Commenting on the analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Rail passengers are paying more and getting even less. Fares go up while trains remain overcrowded, stations are unstaffed, and rail companies cut the guards who ensure journeys run smoothly and safely.
‘Enough is enough. It’s time for rail services to be publicly owned, saving money for passengers and taxpayers alike.’ ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘Once more the passengers and taxpayers will wonder why they must pay more for an increasingly poor service.
‘Are we back to pricing people off the railway as a solution to overcrowding and inability to deliver?’ RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The rail privatisation racket is robbing the British people day in and day out. With the train companies queuing up to slash jobs and working conditions, at a time of dangerous overcrowding, it is a scandal that they are getting yet another fare hike. Private profit is being placed above rail safety.’
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘Our rail fares are already the highest in Europe and today’s increases will only make that record worse. It’s time that ministers gave rail passengers a break and actually froze fares in real terms. Fares on the most popular routes have jumped by more than 245% since rail was privatised 20 years ago. Running a publicly owned railway would end this annual mugging of passengers and give us a network run in the interests of passengers and staff.’
Unite National Officer for the rail industry Tony Murphy said: ‘The best solution is to take railways back into public ownership for the benefit of all, rather than the publicly-subsidised shareholders of rail companies.’
Speaking at one of the nationwide protests about rail fares outside London’s Liverpool Street station yesterday morning, Labour leader Corbyn said: ‘The Southern rail debacle just goes to show how private transport operators cannot be trusted with having passengers’ best interests at heart.
‘Public ownership of our railways is needed now to fix the transport nightmare we are currently faced with, and we know there is overwhelming support among the British public for a people’s railway.’
Also demonstrating at Liverpool Street station Jan Pollock, co-ordinator of the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation, told News Line: ‘Without public ownership of the rail network we will never get fully accessable transport. The privatised rail companies profits for shareholders always comes before accessability for rail users. I support the case to bring rail back into public ownership.’