Corbyn condemns ‘disgraceful’ increase in rail fares
The cost of many rail season tickets has gone up by more than £100 due to the 3.1% average rise in fares.
The increase in rail fares has been described as a “disgrace” by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
In a video message, he said the rail network should work in the interests of everybody, not just for “the profits of the few”, and said the Government was to blame for the price hikes.
The cost of many rail season tickets has risen by more than £100 due to the 3.1% average increase in fares on Wednesday, with punctuality running at a 13-year low.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blamed trade unions for the price hikes.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reality is 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% and that’s what drives the increases.
“These are the same unions that fund the Labour Party.”
The rail industry insists the “vast majority” of revenue from fares covers the day-to-day costs of running the network.
One in seven trains was delayed by at least five minutes in the past 12 months as a series of major issues plagued the railway.
Press Association analysis of historical data revealed this was the worst performance since September 2005.
Extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, strikes and signalling failures were among the causes.
A rail campaign group described the latest fares rise as “another kick in the wallet” for passengers.
Examples of increases in annual season tickets include £148 for Brighton to London (from £4,696 to £4,844), £130 for Gloucester to Birmingham (from £4,108 to £4,238), and £100 for Manchester to Liverpool (from £3,152 to £3,252).
The annual cost from Prime Minister Theresa May’s constituency of Maidenhead to London has increased by £96 (from £3,092 to £3,188).
Robert Nisbet, regional director of industry body the Rail Delivery Group, insisted that the rise in fares will contribute towards “the biggest investment in rail services since the Victorian era”.
Speaking at London Bridge station, he added: “What we’re saying to passengers in 2019 is soon you’re going to be able to see, touch and feel that investment and we hope it will deliver a much better service.”
Mr Grayling marked the increase in fares by announcing that a new railcard to extend child fares to 16 and 17-year-olds will be available in time for the new academic year in September. A railcard for 26 to 30-year-olds went on general sale at noon on Wednesday.
📢 We're introducing a brand new railcard, guaranteeing 50% off all rail travel for 16-17 year-olds 📢— Conservatives (@Conservatives) January 2, 2019
🎟️ While the new 26-30 railcard will also cut 1/3rd off travel.
Helping young people & their families with the cost of living so they can keep more money in their pockets 🌳 pic.twitter.com/4pghIiMemg
He claimed the Government’s “record investment” in the rail network will help passengers get the “frequent, affordable and reliable journeys they deserve”.
Labour analysis of more than 180 routes suggests an average commuter is paying £2,980 for their annual season ticket, up £786 from 2010, which was the year the Conservatives came to power as part of a coalition government.
The research also indicates that fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed the latest increases are “an affront to everyone who has had to endure years of chaos on Britain’s railways”.
Labour has pledged to return the railways to public ownership and called for prices to be frozen on the worst performing routes.
Rail union leaders, politicians and campaigners protested against the increasing cost of rail travel outside stations across the country.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said fare payers are being “battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering”.
Fewer than half (45%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to a survey by watchdog Transport Focus.
Its chief executive Anthony Smith said “the rail industry cannot be short of funding” as passengers contribute £10 billion a year in fares.
He added: “When will this translate into more reliable services that are better value for money?”
Bruce Williamson, from campaign group Railfuture, said: “After a terrible year of timetable chaos, passengers are being rewarded with yet another kick in the wallet.”
Natalie Campbell, 23, from Tring, who commutes to London daily, 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 also a struggle to get a seat most times.”
Increases for around 45% of fares, including season tickets, are regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments.
They are predominantly capped at July’s RPI inflation figure, which was 3.2%.
Other fare rises are decided by train companies.
It has been the policy of successive governments to rebalance the funding of the railways between passengers and taxpayers.
This has resulted in a reduction in the relative contribution of taxpayers, and an increase in fares.
Office of Rail and Road figures for 2017/18 show revenue from fares and other passenger charges reached £9.7 billion.
Net government support to the industry over the same period totalled £6.4 billion (excluding Network Rail loans). Almost a third of this was HS2 funding.
The Department for Transport has commissioned former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams to carry out a root and branch review of Britain’s railway, including fares.