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Posted on 4 January 2011 at 16:33 GMT

Blatant profiteering by rail companies

Years come and go but this New Year's rail fares price rise saw another ceiling breached - the cost of a standard open return ticket from Carlisle to London Euston broke through the 300 barrier and now stands at 301-00.

Craig Johnston, RMT National Executive Committee Member for Manchester and the North West of England

This is a staggering amount of money and is clearly out of the reach of most ordinary people. This ticket is the most flexible standard ticket and allows you to travel on any Virgin service including the first one from Carlisle to Euston - leaving Carlisle at 05.43 and arriving into the capital at 09.04.

It is (I am advised) possible to book advance tickets for this train but (I was also advised) they aren't always available!

At 301-00 the standard open ticket from Carlisle to London is now exceeding the cost of some short break holidays to the continent advertised in the windows of some Carlisle travel agents.

There can be no justification for this level of fares except blatant profiteering by the privateer operators of the service, in this case Virgin. Good rail links between Cumbria and our capital city are essential for all sorts of reasons, not least economic development.

These costs are prohibitive and will drive people into their cars. The argument used by Virgin is that people should book in advance for cheaper tickets.

But in many cases that is simply not an option and those tickets are not always available no matter how far in advance you try to book them.

Even if you can book in advance, getting a cheap ticket is sometimes like trying to win a lottery. Rather than there being any methodology to it you are subjected to a mystery tour of "alternatives" and "availabilities".

Another privateer rail company increasing its fares was regional operator Northern. It recently did badly in the statistics for performance but it hasn't stopped it putting fares up.

In 2010 the company listed profits (for normal activities) of around 30 million and gave shareholder dividends of 27 million. Top director salary was 218,000.

The company recently reduced the number of train fitters at Newcastle working at weekends - this followed the axing of cover for similar jobs at Carlisle some years ago.

This often means train repairs don't get carried out in a speedy fashion leading to broken and blocked toilets, freezing coaches and in some cases cancellations.

Privatisation isn't working. The passengers and the taxpayers are being ripped off.

What we are witnessing and experiencing is nothing less than another Great Train Robbery!

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