GP Taylor: End the great train robbery by taking back control of rail network as fares go up yet again

Pasengers at Leeds Station - the New Year begins with fare increases. Are they justified?
Pasengers at Leeds Station - the New Year begins with fare increases. Are they justified?
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IT is only when you check the prices for train travel that you begin to feel that Yorkshire is at the end of the world.

The idea of a cheeky museum trip to London on the first Wednesday of January was soon squashed.

Fare increases are introduced on the rail network on January 2.

Fare increases are introduced on the rail network on January 2.

As I typed in my destination into the booking website, I could see the pound signs whirring.

Staggeringly, an open return to King’s Cross from Whitby would set me back £313.00p.

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Yes, I could get cheaper but that would have meant travelling at a time to suit the railway and theoretically only having a couple of hours in London. Sad to know that a tank full of petrol will get me there and back and possibly in a quicker time than the five hours quoted and cost me £60.

It is no wonder then that our roads are clogged with cars when rail prices are so expensive. It is cheaper to fly to New York than catch a train to London and back. To me, that is outrageous.

In a time of environmental concern about road pollution, shouldn’t the government be doing everything it can to get people off the roads and on to trains? The old slogan of ‘Beat the strain take the train’ has been replaced by ‘take the train and have them rob you blind.’

Having travelled to Istanbul, Madrid and Nice by train, I believe there is no better way of getting around. When you arrive in Paris, the first thing you notice is that the trains are cheaper, run on time, are cleaner and better organised. Even crossing Bulgaria sharing a compartment with a goat and an armed guard is better than going from Malton to York.

So why is it that we cannot get train travel right in this country? After all, we invented the things.

As you wake up this morning, please spare a thought for all those commuters who not only use the trains to get to work, but pay an arm and a leg to do so. It isn’t just in the South where people get the train to work. Yorkshire has its fair share of rail commuters.

Like their southern counterparts, they too are packed into carriages on trains that are often late, overcrowded and forced to pay a king’s ransom for the privilege.

Imagine paying nearly £10,000 of your salary just to get to work. For some, that will be the sting in the tail of the 3.1 per cent price rises this week. Season tickets cannot be claimed against tax due to the HMRC’s stiff criteria. Workers are hit in their pockets yet again with no help from the government.

In the last year, there has been chaos on the railways. Strikes, timetable problems, trains not running and leaves on the line have all added to the misery of the train traveller. Why then have the franchise companies been allowed to put up fares yet again for a shoddy service?

Workers are held to ransom. Some have no other way of travel to work other than by the train. Rail companies see them as a cash cow that can be exploited and a financial apple that can be squeezed until the pips squeak.

Britain has the highest rail fares in Europe and the lowest standards of service, with rail punctuality hitting its lowest level in 13 years.

It is astonishing that rail companies have the cheek to raise fares for poorer and poorer services.

Price rises for tickets are worked out by using the Retail Price Index which in itself means higher costs than if the Consumer Price Index was used.

Even though many in Government prefer the CPI method, the change to is being blocked by the RMT union who prefer the Government to use the RPI as it gives them bigger wage packets. So much for workers caring for other workers.

This is despite the RMT securing an inflation-busting 3.6 per cent pay rise for its members who work for Northern, at the same time as causing chaos for passengers by conducting 26 days of strike action last year.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Rail fares are going up after a year blighted by timetable chaos, poor performance and strikes. Until day-to-day reliability returns, with fewer significant delays and cancellations, passenger trust won’t begin to recover.

“Passengers now pour over £10bn a year into the railway alongside significant government investment, so the rail industry cannot be short of funding.”

Private rail companies are crippling the country and should be stopped. Trains should run for people and not for profit. It is now time to renationalise the train industry for the benefit of passengers and not foreign shareholders hell bent on twisting the cash out of British workers. It may have once been called British Rail, but trains are now provided by companies from Germany, France, Holland and Italy.

Passengers will only get cheaper fares when the railways are back in public ownership and not in the control of foreign, faceless multi-national companies.