By Amina Khatun
For commuters returning to work today, 2017 seems less celebratory and promising given they will face fresh fare increases on their first day back, all thanks to our privatised rail system.
This might feel unfair on many levels, not least since rail fares have shot up twice as much as wages over the last decade, according to new research published by the Action for Rail campaign today.
Worse still, our counterparts in Europe using largely publicly owned railways are spending significantly less on travel and enjoying a better standard of living. How then are we doing in relation to spending on rail fares in comparison to our European cousins? Not fantastic. According to our research, UK workers on average salaries spend 14% of their income on a monthly season ticket from Luton to London amounting to an exorbitant £387, or 11% from Liverpool to Manchester at £292.
Similar commutes on the continent would cost passengers only 2% of their incomes in France, 3% in Germany and Italy, and 4% in Spain.
Rail fares increasing aren’t the only hitch though. Trains are often delayed, cancelled and overcrowded. We need more staffing – not ticket office closures and slashing of staffing levels.
The misery of privatisation: paying more for less
And don’t get me started on how commuters suffer poor quality services, and worse the recent rise in crime and hate crime – that’s why we need more staff on understaffed platforms. Passengers are tired of paying more for less! It is doubly frustrating that high fares and the tax payers’ money is being used to subsidise profits and shareholder dividends. Just see the case of Southern Rail.
Southern Rail, run by Govia, and now part-owned by French state railways is a franchising failure. Southern received £42m in net subsidies from the taxpayer in 2014-15 and paid out £22m in shareholder dividends, despite its failures. Now while fares escalate, Southern is proposing to close more ticket offices, remove guards from trains and extend driver only operations. That’s not putting passenger safety first! Southern is a clear example of the failures of privatisation, with profits put before people.
We need public ownership
We’ve already seen how placing rail in the hands of private owners since 1994 has derailed the system. The government remains totally averse to public ownership. We know that putting the likes of Southern Rail back into the hands of public ownership can work better. Publicly owned East Coast returned over £1bn to the Treasury, had high satisfaction ratings and won over 30 industry awards. Research shows that more than double (£1.5bn) could be saved over the same period if the rail franchises up for renewal this parliament were returned to the public sector. Transport for Quality of Life have estimated that this could fund a 10% reduction in season tickets and other regulated fares from 2017.
The time then seems ripe for public ownership of our rail. Hundreds of rail campaigners’ are joining ‘action for rail’ protests today across the nations of the UK, to power the message that we won’t settle for anything less than an affordable, properly staffed and publically owned rail system!
Sign our petitions
You can join the campaign now by adding your voice our petitions.