Unions call for re-nationalisation of rail network

action for rail rmt aslef tssaRail fares for season tickets, and other regulated fares, have risen nearly three times faster than wages over the last five years, according to new analysis published today by the TUC and the rail unions’ Action for Rail campaign.

The analysis shows that between 2010 and 2015 fares increased by 25 per cent in real terms, while average pay went up by just 9 per cent.

The government has announced plans to cap annual increases in regulated rail fares at the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation for this parliament. However, the public will finance the fare cap through paying their taxes. The capping of rail fares will cost taxpayers around £700 million over the next five years, according to Department for Transport figures.

The TUC says that far bigger savings could be passed onto passengers if services were run by the public sector. Research commissioned by Action for Rail shows that £1.5bn could be saved over the next five years if routes, including the Northern, Transpennine and West Coast Main Line, were returned to the public sector.

The research – carried out by Transport for Quality of Life – estimates that season tickets could be 10 per cent cheaper by 2017 if routes coming up for re-tender were run by the public sector.

A third (£520 million) of this £1.5bn saving would come from recouping the money private train companies pay in dividends to their shareholders.

The rail unions and the TUC’s Action for Rail campaign are marking today’s inflation figures with a protest at Waterloo station. Campaigners will hand out postcards highlighting the huge cost of rail privatisation. The postcards will call on MPs to put people before profits and return our railways to public ownership.

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.”

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Once more, those who claim they want to make work pay devalue that statement with continual, excessive and unreasonable increases in fares.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash 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 fares.

“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. ‎That’s the price of two decades of rail privatisation and the whole rotten business needs to be swept away and replaced by a public railway under public control.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “We have the most expensive rail fares in Europe and they have risen by over 200 per cent on the most popular routes since privatisation 20 years ago.

“We should follow the European example and run a publicly owned railway for the benefit of the travelling public, not the private rail firms.”

Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said: “The TUC’s analysis once again reinforces the case that rail privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster for the taxpayer and the put-upon commuter.

“It makes strong economic sense to bring the railways back into public ownership and start the process of reducing rail fares, the highest in western Europe, for passengers who have had to endure the 25 per cent hike in rail fares since 2010.

“The only people to have benefited from rail privatisation are the shareholders of the rail companies who are scooping up large dividends. Railways should be for the public good and economic benefit of the UK and not just for a cartel of rail firms seemingly unable to cut fares.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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