Ahead of soaring price rises for passengers tomorrow [Tuesday 2 January], a new report reveals that the private rail companies that are putting fares up by 3.1% have paid out more £1 billion in dividends to shareholders over the last six years.
According to a statement posted by ASLEF,the train drivers’ union,that’s money that could – and should – have been reinvested to make our rail services better. Not siphoned off for a few to make a private profit at public expense,the report is alleging.
The TUC, which commissioned the report, is concerned that
these shareholder pay-outs are excessive given the poor quality service
and high costs that workers face commuting by rail. Analysis by the TUC
reveals that commuters in Britain spend up to five times as much on
season tickets as our European equivalents.
Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to fork out 13% of their pay for a season ticket [£393 each month] while, by contrast, a comparable commute costs just 2% of average salary in France, 3% in Ireland and 4% in Germany.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “The most reliable thing about our railways is the cash that goes to private shareholders each year. But with the most expensive fares in Europe, that can’t be right. It’s rewarding failure and taking money away that should be invested in better services. It’s time to take the railways back into public hands. Every penny from every fare should go back into the railways. The number one priority should be running a world class railway service, not private profit.”
Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ trade union, said: “The train companies are telling passengers to pay more for a poorer service and that’s not a great offer, is it? Not for passengers – or for voters at the next election.
“Commuters complain about persistent delays and cancellations, and the consumer group Which? says the privatised train operators are one of this country’s least trusted groups – beaten to bottom place only by second-hand car dealers.
“Wages aren’t keeping pace with inflation and yet the train
companies, and their chum the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, are
pushing up prices yet again. What a way to run the railway!”
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said:
“Millions of commuters will be staggered and furious that fares are rising yet again while privateers stuff shareholders pockets with cash. This situation is untenable, and the fact is only bringing the railways back into public hands will end the misery for so many each day. Britain and the British public deserve so much better than failing Chris Grayling and this useless Tory government.”
And Harish Patel, Unite’s national officer for the rail industry, said:
“Given last year’s rail timetable chaos, presided over by the hapless transport secretary Chris Grayling, there should be no rail fare increases for hard-pressed travellers in 2019 – fares should have been frozen.
“The 3.1% rise is an insult. As usual, the real winners are
the greedy shareholders of the privatised rail companies that have
gobbled up more than £1 billion in ill-gotten gains in the last six
years – money that could have gone towards freezing fares and boosting
rail investment. Every day the case for the public ownership of the rail
industry grows stronger, especially after the woeful performance of