(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 2nd Jan 2019) London, Uk – –
Demonstrations held at more than 20 stations as fares rise by above-inflation average of 3.1%
Campaigners have staged demonstrations at railway stations across the country as the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, blamed trade unions for ticket price hikes.
Protests were held at about two dozen railway stations as fares rose by an above-inflation average of 3.1% on Wednesday morning.
The cost of many rail season tickets has risen by more than £100, while punctuality is at a 13-year low.
At Manchester Piccadilly station, union officials and Labour councillors handed out flyers titled “Cut fares not staff” as commuters began returning to work after the Christmas holiday.
One passenger, Lorraine Southon, 57, said all three of her daily trains were usually late and that she had been forced to change her route to work due to the introduction of new timetables, which caused months of disruption last year.
“In my experience it’s a very poor service,” she said outside Manchester Piccadilly station. “I don’t mind [fares] going up if they would improve the service, but they don’t improve the service – the service continues to be poor.”
Southon, a BT worker, added: “I can’t comprehend how the management continue to get these huge bonuses when the service is just so poor. Why are the bonuses not performance-based? Chris Grayling should be responsible.”
Another commuter, Phillip Shields, 32, added: “I’m definitely not happy with the rise. There’s no justification really for it at the moment.
“They keep promising every year that they’re going to improve services but it never seems to materialise. It’s the same statements they repeat over and over again, every year.”
The 3.1% average fare increase outpaces the 2.6% rise in the average wage in 2018 and will add hundreds of pounds to the cost of season tickets for some rail passengers.Advertisement
Costs will come down for 16- and 17-year-olds, who are to be given half-price travel on all trains from September – benefiting up to 1.2 million people – according to an announcement by the government in November, at the same time as the wider fare increase was revealed.
But the vast majority of passengers are to pay more despite poor service, prompting renewed calls from Labour and the Trades Union Congress for UK railways to be nationalised.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning, Grayling defended the fare rise by saying trade unions were to blame.
He said: “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 that Labour party.”
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, joined protesters outside King’s Cross station in London as he described the rail fare increases as a “disgrace” that was driving people away from public transport.
Responding to Grayling’s insistence that the rise was needed to fund the upkeep of the network, Corbyn said Britain must “invest in our railways as a public investment”. He added: “If we don’t invest then people will have to suffer in their journeys, and we end up with more people using their cars and that’s far more dangerous for our environment than rail travel.”
Pressed whether it was fair to ask taxpayers to subsidise commuters, he replied: “All public transport is subsidised in one form or another, and there is a public good from it. No other country in the world has a transport system that sits completely alone.”
Outside Manchester Piccadilly, Michelle Rodgers, the RMT national president, said the fare increase followed an “abysmal” year for rail passengers.
She added: “We’ve had an absolutely fantastic response this morning. They’re all really angry and disgusted about the fare increase, especially in this region where we have seen the worst [service] in many, many years. I’ve been around 20 years and I’ve never seen it as bad as in the last 12 months.”
Handing out flyers branded “Tory rail rip off”, Adele Douglas, a Labour party councillor for the Piccadilly ward on Manchester city council, said the unreliable trains were “destroying people’s working lives”.
She added: “I’m not going to encourage anyone to civil disobedience that’s going to get them into serious trouble but I think there does come a line where the public will have to say: we don’t accept this – it’s too much money, too little in return and it’s not fair..”Topics
By Josh Halliday and Rob Davies