Campaigners across the midlands joined together for the latest Action For Rail day to protest against yet another wage busting fare rise.
Campaigners from Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite handed out thousands of leaflets at Birmingham International, Bham New Street, Derby and Nottingham station. In an attempt to spin the media, the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Mcloughlin MP, turned up at Nottingham station to talk up Government investment in the station. However, Action For Rail campaigners at Nottingham lobbied Patrick on rail fares, privatisation and the ill conceived decision to put East Coast Mainline back into private hands. Also, Rob Johnston, Midlands TUC Regional Secretary, took part in TV interviews with the BBC and ITN at Nottingham to ensure that the issue of rail fares and the corporate rip off were covered by the media in response.
The sad reality is that next year’s wage-busting rail fare increases – the sixth time in seven years that fare rises have outstripped wages – will mean that rail fares will have increased by 40 per cent since between January 2008 and January 2014. Over the same period, average earnings have increased by just 15 per cent, with rail fares rising nearly three times faster than wages.
An additional five per cent flexibility means that some season tickets could actually increase by around nine per cent in the new year, while unregulated fares could increase further. Average earnings are forecast to rise by just 2.4 per cent next year.
The TUC has set up a rail fare rise projector – available at www.tuc.org.uk/railfareprojector – to show how regulated fares have increased since 2008.
Passengers are being short-changed by wage-busting rail fare rises. Passenger Focus surveys show that less than half of rail passengers think that the service provides value for money.
While train company revenues continue to increase, little of this benefits of passengers. Recent research commissioned by the TUC shows that investment by train operating companies in trains and stations is minimal, with the average age of rolling stock increasing since rail privatisation.
Rail privatisation is costing taxpayers £1.2bn a year as a result of fragmented services, higher costs of borrowing and money leaking out of the service in the form of profits and dividends, according to research by Transport for Quality of Life. Their analysis also showed that eliminating this £1.2bn-a-year wastage could result in an 18 per cent cut in rail fares across the board.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "Every year hard-pressed rail commuters have to hand over an ever greater share of their earnings just to get to and from work.
"Wage-busting fare rises are not even going on much needed service improvements either. Instead, passenger and public subsidies are lining the pockets of the shareholders of private rail companies.
"You only have to look at the nationalised East Coast mainline to see that public ownership of the railways not only works, it provides a better deal for passengers and taxpayers alike.
"Ministers must put evidence before ideology, halt the privatisation of the East Coast mainline and look at bringing our railways back into public ownership."