Rail fares rise condemned as ‘pandemic profiteering’

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Train operators have been accused of “pandemic profiteering” after announcing increases in rail fares.

Union leaders and Labour have described the 2.6% increase, due to come into force from Monday, as “lamentable,” despite a reduction in the number of passengers.

Far less people are commuting and using public transport because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour’s analysis of more than 180 train routes showed that the average commuter will be paying £3,144 for their season ticket – £950 ,or 43%, more than in 2010.

And according to Labour, some commuters will be paying around £3,450 more to travel to work than in 2010 and average fares have risen two-and-a-half times faster than wages.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “This fare hike will make rail unaffordable for many and discourage people from getting back on to the network when lockdown restrictions ease in the coming months.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “As the Government raises fares for rail passengers and freezes pay for rail workers, it is business as usual for the private rail industry.

“Rail companies raking in hundreds of millions of pounds in profit every year prior to the pandemic was bad enough but now in a corporate Covid cash grab scandal of epic proportions, we learn they stand to actually increase the share they take in ticket revenues with profits equivalent to 15p of every pound passengers paid on rail fares.

“This pandemic profiteering is totally unacceptable and rather than lining the pockets of big business, this money would be far better spent being reinvested in improving the rail network for passengers, and scrapping the pay freeze imposed on key worker rail staff.

“The rail network has a central role to play in a green recovery from Covid-19 and it’s high time the Government ended the farce of privatisation once and for all and invested in creating a reliable, affordable, accessible, spacious rail network in public ownership which values its key worker staff and the vital role they play.”

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “This really is a lamentable step from Conservative ministers and again demonstrates an utterly misguided approach when it comes to our railways.

“Increasing fares at a time when demand for rail travel has plummeted due to the pandemic will do nothing to encourage the much-needed return of passengers.

“Instead, hiking fares in this way seriously risks increasing congestion on our roads, and the pollution and carbon emissions that goes along with such a spike.

“This was the moment to be bold, but instead we see the Treasury’s grubby fingerprints all over this demand for more cash from the commuter.

“What should have happened was a strategy focused on a fair fares regime, with new flexible ticketing arrangements encouraging train travel.

“The pandemic must be a moment to put the failure of privatisation behind us and see our railway network in public hands.”



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