Labour Members Protest at Rail Fare Hike

Labour Party members and Trades Unionists outside Bridgwater Railway Station bright and early

Bridgwater Labour members were out this morning at Bridgwater’s Railway Station to campaign and draw attention to the national 3.2% rise in rail fares which came into effect today.Commuters were handed a newspaper style leaflet drawing attention to the fact:

  • That some commuters are paying over £2,850 more to travel to work than in 2010.
  • The highest increase was on a Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston which has risen by £2,874 since 2010 and now costs £10,902.
  • The biggest percentage increase identified was between Thame Bridge Parkway near Walsall and Nuneaton, where the cost of an annual season ticket will have risen by 54 per cent since 2010.
  • In Theresa May’s own constituency the cost of an annual season ticket from Maidenhead to London Paddington has risen by £831 since 2010.
  • Average fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages.

The campaign was co ordinated with Highbridge and Weston super Mare Labour members who were also in attendance at railway stations further along the GWR line.

Privatisation Failings

labour members
Labour members opposing the rail fares hike

Since 1996 Britain’s Railways have been operated by private operators, who lease the trains and operate on the infrastructure which is owned by Network Rail. Profits from operating trains are returned to shareholders and not the people who use the railway day in day out. Service levels are tightly regulated by the Department for Transport (DfT). When train operating companies fail to meet their financial forecasts, they are either bailed out by the Government or operated by them directly

In the case of the East Coast Main Line, the Government has on three separate occasions in the last 10 years (2007, 2009 and in 2018) had to take over the operation of the line from companies which have failed. Yet they have not learned the lessons. Under public ownership the line actually returned £1bn to the taxpayers, achieved a 94% customer satisfaction rating and was the most efficient of all train franchises.

Locally, our Great Western line is operated by bus operator FirstGroup under a management contract to the DfT – the original franchise agreement having been changed from a 10 year one beginning in 2006. The final three years  were ‘optional’ in which most of the premium payments from First to the DfT fell due to a management contract which began in 2013. This has been extended more than once, and will run until 2022.

Nationalisation is the Answer

Surely it is time to end the annual fare hikes that commuters have to endure and return the railways to public ownership? Since privatisation the cost of operating the railway under a ‘private’ structure has increased by £11bn compared to the early 1990s.

This equates to £1.1bn per year, which is more than sufficient to fund an 18% reduction in rail fares!

Sedgemoor Labour Campaign Coordinator Gary Tucker was pleased with the response to the leaflets,“Many passengers took leaflets from us.  The newspaper format seemed to go down well and gave them something to read on their onward journeys.  Like clockwork, these private companies predictably announced a rise in prices well over 3% which is obviously a disgrace.  A Corbyn-led Labour government will end this fiasco and rightly bring them back under public ownership.  Passengers will stop being taken for mugs by corporate shareholders and the railways will be run for the many, not the few.”

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