Socialist Worker

Protests across Britain as rail fares rise once more

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2636

Protesters outside Kings Cross station in London

Protesters outside King's Cross station in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Campaigners, union members and rail passengers staged a national day of action against fare rises on Wednesday. Protests took place at train stations across Britain including London King’s Cross, Cardiff Central, Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street.

More protests were planned for Wednesday evening.

In Watford, protesters including Labour Party members gathered outside Watford Junction on Wednesday morning. The latest rise will mean a season ticket from Watford Junction to London costs £3,204.

On average, rail fares are up by 3.1 percent, the second highest rise since January 2013, while the service gets worse.

Natalie from Tring commutes to London daily. She said, “Considering I’m not on a great salary, the fare rise is annoying.

“What’s worse is the trains aren’t reliable—my train was cancelled this morning and it’s a struggle to get a seat most times.

“I don’t want fancier trains—I just want to get to work on time.”

Privatisation has seen fares soar while passengers face more delays and a worse service. Fares have risen nearly 50 percent faster than inflation since privatisation, research from the RMT union shows.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the protest at King’s Cross. He tweeted, “Rail fares have increased by 36 percent since 2010 as train companies make huge profits and pay hundreds of millions to shareholders.

“Let’s bring our railways back into public ownership so they work for the many, not the few.”

Compared

Passengers in Britain spend up to five times as much on season tickets compared to passengers in other European countries.

TUC research found that someone travelling by rail from Chelmsford to London spends 13 percent of their average earnings on a monthly season ticket. The figure for the equivalent journey in France is 2 percent.

It said private rail operators in Britain have paid over £1 billion in dividends to shareholders in the last six years. Yet Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling blamed workers for the hike.

“The fare increases are higher than they should be because the unions demand—with threats of national strikes, but they don’t get them—higher pay rises than anybody else.

“Typical pay rises are more than 3 percent and that’s what drives the increases.”

That’s rich from Grayling. Cabinet ministers get a salary of over £141,000 a year. Basic salaries for MPs have gone up every year for the last seven years. In that time they’ve had a total rise of £11,600 and now get £77,379 a year.

That’s on top of expenses and other extras.

Grayling claimed over £100,000 in expenses to renovate a fancy flat in Pimlico. He claimed he needed the flat for work—yet hardly used it.

Rail workers have faced repeated attacks on their jobs, pay and conditions. Why shouldn’t they demand real pay rises?

The real problem is fat cat bosses and the Tories that back them.

Unfortunately RMT general secretary Mick Cash spoke of “foreign rail firms” raking in profits. But privatisation sees bosses line their pockets wherever they are.

The answer isn’t to have British-based profiteering firms running and wrecking the railways. It’s to nationalise the rail and kick all the fat cats out.


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