Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/652/10869
Rail operators profit from commuter misery
RAIL PASSENGERS face a miserable start to the New Year as a result of massive price hikes imposed by the privately run train operating companies (TOCs).
The price rises average 6.2% for unregulated fares with mainline season ticket holders having to fork out an extra 13%, way above the current inflation rate.
An annual season ticket between Leicester and Coventry, for example, will now cost £2,472, while a season ticket between Peterborough and London has risen to a staggering £5,320 (ie more than half a year's minimum wage). Tube and bus passengers in London face a 6.8% increase from 1 January.
Passengers will face yet more misery in January 2012 when a higher inflation forecast coupled to a 3% fare hike will come in across the rail network.
These increases will price people off the railways and make it prohibitively expensive for many to commute to work in the cities. This will add to road congestion and increase carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.
Not that road transport is much of a cheaper alternative, with fuel duty and VAT tax rises on petrol and diesel applying from the start of 2011 and another increase in fuel duty expected in April.
Chief executive of the Association of TOCs, Michael Roberts, disingenuously argued that the price increases were part of a government policy to make rail passengers pay a greater share than taxpayers - as if passengers don't pay taxes!
What Roberts is attempting to conceal, badly, is the huge £1 billion a year subsidy the privately run TOCs receive in order to maintain their profits and reward shareholders.
Since British Rail was denationalised by the Tory government under John Major in 1993 the rail passenger system has been in chaos. Fatal safety failures, massive overcrowding of trains, expensive and constantly rising fares, and billions in public subsidies while underinvesting in infrastructure, have characterised the privatised railways.
Such has been the disastrous impact of privatisation on the rail network, that in 2001 the Labour government was forced to part-renationalise the failed rail infrastructure company Railtrack by creating Network Rail. However, this measure has simply resulted in the public paying for new investment in the industry while the TOCs continue to cream the profits.
This parasitic relationship between the state and private rail companies must be ended through the wholesale renationalistion of the rail system as part of an overall national transport plan.
In The Socialist 5 January 2011:
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party review