Anger Over ‘Massive’ Train Fare Hikes

August 14th, 20124:52 am @

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By Lisa Dowd, Midlands Correspondent

The Government is allowing train firms to raise fares by 3% more than RPI inflation from January, based on July’s inflation figure.

Unions have warned that some fares could jump by 11% from the New Year, while most rush-hour travel, season tickets, and off-peak fares will rise by well above the rate of inflation.

Campaigners said commuters to London were routinely spending 15% of their salary on getting to work, and between 2011 and 2015, could see their annual season ticket rise by more than £1,000.

Bob Crow, leader of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said passengers will be “rightly angry” when they find out the full extent of inflation-busting fare increases imposed on them by Government “diktat”.

Unions also warned that up to 20,000 jobs in the rail industry are at risk under cost-cutting proposals, which will hit station staff, guards, catering and ticket offices.

A series of demonstrations are being held at 40 railway stations across the country today to step up demands for railways to be returned to public ownership.

Campaigners claim that privatisation has led to some of the highest fares in Europe despite a massive increase in taxpayer subsidies to the industry.

Mr Crow said: “The case for re-nationalising our railways, and throwing the extortionists and rip-off merchants off the tracks, is now overwhelming.

“The public is sick and tired of being charged through the nose to travel on creaking, overcrowded trains while the rail companies are robbing them blind.”

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “I am keen to see what we can do to keep rail fares down to something affordable.

“I shall be looking at whether there is a way of doing that in the autumn but we have to stick with our deficit-reduction policy.”

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “If the Government sticks by its policy, rail fares will rise three times faster than salaries. With the economy flat-lining, this is untenable.

“The Government knows they can’t continue to hit commuters – that’s why they’ve postponed the fuel duty increase. Now they need to give the same help to rail users.”

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These fare rises will add even more pressure to passengers already feeling a massive squeeze on their incomes.

“The Government is asking train operators to make cuts to staff on trains, stations and in ticket offices while continuing to receive public subsidy and give millions in dividends to shareholders.”

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said: “We are determined to drive down the cost of running the railways so we can put an end to above inflation fare increases in the future.

“Our reforms aim to deliver £3.5bn in efficiency savings while continuing to expand services. That is the most effective way to respond to passenger concerns about fare levels.

“We are pressing ahead with a massive programme of rail improvements to tackle crowding and improve services and rail fares are making an important contribution to delivering this at a time when taxpayer funds are limited by the pressing need to tackle the deficit.”

Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/972193