Rail unions call for renationalisation after anger over fare increases

The prospect of higher fares sparked an angry reaction and led to increasing calls for the railway industry to be renationalised.

Unions have called for the railways to be renationalised.

Rail unions stepped up their calls for the railway industry to be bought back into public ownership, with Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union leader Mick Cash calling it a "kick in the teeth" for passengers.

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He said: "The huge hike in fares confirmed today is another kick in the teeth for passengers who already fork out colossal sums to travel on rammed out, unreliable trains while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.

"With over three quarters of Britain's railways now in the hands of foreign states these huge sums of money aren't being invested in essential upgrades and modernisation here, they are being siphoned off to subsidise transport services over the Channel.

"It's no wonder we are a global laughing stock.

"The only solution to the Great British Private Rail Rip-Off is public ownership and an end to this Government sponsored racketeering."

Research by the RMT and the TUC has shown rail fares have been increasing at twice the rate of pay rises in recent years.

David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus, the independent transport user watchdog, said: "Yet again, passengers, now majority funders of the railway, face fare rises next January.

"Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score - just one third according to our latest survey.

"So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January.

"Why is the Government not using its preferred measure of inflation: the one that is used to determine wages and pension increases, and one which is often lower than RPI? Why not use the Consumer Prices Index for rail fares too? Passengers deserve a fairer deal."

"Passengers have faced truly staggering fare rises"

Andy McDonald, Shadow Secretary of State Transport, said: "The Tories' failure on our railways means passengers have faced truly staggering fare rises, some of over £2,500, since 2010 with fares having increased twice as much as wages.

"Commuters have repeatedly been told that higher fares are necessary to fund investment, but promised investment has been cancelled and essential works have been delayed for years.

"Decisions taken by government ministers are making rail travel unaffordable for the many in favour of huge profits for the few.

"By pegging regulated fares rises to the Retail Price Index, the Conservatives are leaving commuters facing year on year price hikes.

"The truth is that our fragmented, privatised railway drives up costs and leaves passengers paying more for less.

"The railways need serious reform that could be achieved if the Tories matched Labour's manifesto policy to extend public ownership to passenger services, but instead Ministers are persisting with a failed model of privatisation that is punishing passengers."

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together train companies and Network Rail, added: "Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to season tickets.

"It's also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI.

"Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper."

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "This rise will be the highest since 2013 and will leave many commuters struggling to meet the cost of their commute next year.

"That's why we want the Government to bring in a fares freeze for January; it's frozen fuel duty for the last seven years and we think rail fares should be given the same treatment.

"It's unacceptable that the Government continues to use RPI to calculate rail fare rises. Passengers would be forgiven for thinking they are being taken for a ride when RPI has been dropped as an official measure for most other things.

"We want the Government to commit to changing the way it calculates future fare increases and start using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) instead so that rises more accurately reflect real inflation and ensure rail travel remains affordable for all."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "It beggars belief that the Government is yet again choosing to inflict sky-high rail fare increases on commuters who have suffered another year of strikes, delays and overcrowded services.

"The Government simply cannot continue this cycle of misery. There's still time for ministers to stop this unacceptable fare increase and I'm calling on them to do the decent thing and match my TfL fares freeze for the good of all Londoners."

Alex Hayman, Which? managing director of public markets, said: "This price hike will be a kick in the teeth for the majority of passengers who already feel they aren't getting value for money for their train services.

"Commuters are forking out more and more money for their tickets but are still struggling with delays, overcrowding and dirty carriages on a daily basis.

"The Government has promised to put passengers first. So it must make sure that the new rail ombudsman delivers a step change in how passenger complaints are tackled."

The RMT estimated that the 3.6% fare hike means a minimum of an extra £337 million in revenue for the train operating companies.

Department for Transport comment

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Government carefully monitors how rail fares and average earnings change, and keeps under review the way fare levels are calculated.

"We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers - providing faster and better trains with more seats.

"We have always fairly balanced the cost of this investment between the taxpayer and the passenger.

"We are driving the industry hard to improve efficiency to ensure we maximise the value of passengers' and taxpayers' investment in the railways.

"Regulated rail fares are capped in line with inflation for next year. In the five years to 2019, Network Rail is spending more than £40 billion to maintain and improve the network.

"On average, 97% of every £1 of a passenger's fare goes back into the railway."

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