Rail sector under strain as fares rise 1.9%

 

Regulated rail fares will rise by 1.9% from January next year it has been confirmed, amid a bitter atmosphere in the sector with strikes, protests, disruption and calls for reform appearing to be an almost daily occurrence.

For regulated tickets, which includes season tickets, rail companies are limited to increasing fares by no more than the RPI inflation figure for July every year - the Office for National Statistics this morning confirmed RPI stands at 1.9%.

Despite the fact this is one of the lowest annual rises, the news was still greeted with protests from campaigners up and down the country, with coordinated actions from TUC and the rail unions’ Action for Rail campaign.

Fresh research from union umbrella group the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows fares have risen by more than twice as much as wages. Fares increased by 25% in the six years since 2010, while average weekly earnings have only grown by 12%.

TUC also claims that dividends paid to shareholders of private train companies have increased by 21% in the last year to £222m.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Rail passengers are paying more and getting even less. Enough is enough. It’s time for rail services to be publicly owned, saving money for passengers and taxpayers alike.’

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes added: ‘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.’

As well as having the backing of the unions and both Labour leadership contenders Jeremy Corbyn and Own Smith, rail nationalisation has the backing of 58% of the public according to a recent Yougov poll.

Mr Corbyn launched what he called Transport Tuesday on Twitter today, outlining plans to imporve the rail and bus networks.

Green party members were also campaigning against the condition of the railways, with leader Natalie Bennett calling for a system 'run for passengers not shareholders'.

Other campaigners have suggested reforms to the regulation of the sector, with consumer group Which? calling for action to make it easier for passengers to claim compensation and for a statutory ombudsman to oversee the industry.

And the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has called for reforms to ticket price structures, with the introduction of more flexible and part time ticket options.

James MacColl, head of campaigns at CBT, said: ‘The current season ticket system still fails to reflect our modern work force and discriminates against women who make up three quarters of part-time workers, years after the Government committed to roll-out flexible ticketing nationally.

‘We want to see a ticketing system that reflects modern working patterns and makes rail travel affordable, not just for the UK’s millions of part-time workers, but also for the thousands more who are currently prevented from working due to the cost of the commute. It is not good enough for the Government to leave it up to franchisees to develop inadequate compromise offers which don't provide fair discounts.’

The Government’s failure to introduce flexible ticketing in the south east despite spending tens of millions of pounds on the scheme, was exposed by Transport Network.

Currently there are very few flexible ticketing options available for part time commuters, with the choice often left between buying a season ticket or single journey tickets.

CBT highlighted that season tickets generally only provide savings if used at least five out of seven days.

Part time commuters coming into London could save £805 on an annual four-day week season ticket, with a three-day ticket saving an average £1,610 a year, CBT claims

Bristol commuters could save almost £400 on a four-day ticket and £791 on a three-day ticket.

 

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