Commuters Fight for Fair Rail Fares

John Millington reports for the Morning Star on the demonstration against train fare rises held outside Waterloo Station on Tuesday 16 August 2011.

“Rail fares are set to rise by 8 per cent in January, heaping yet more misery on passengers following reports that privatisation and fragmentation had needlessly cost the taxpayer £6.6 million extra since 1997.

New inflation figures pushed up the regulated fares, with July’s retail prices index rate of inflation used to determine the annual rise in January 2012 for regulated rail fares including season and saver tickets.

Campaigners launched a demonstration at Waterloo station in London today following news of the rise, coinciding with the rush hour.

Fair Fares Now activists handed out leaflets and spoke to season ticket holders who are likely to be hit hardest by the rise.

Rail union RMT president Alex Gordon told the Morning Star that the fair rise was “socially unsustainable” and that the union would be “upping the ante” at Parliament in October to call for public ownership of the railways.

Pressure group Bring Back British Rail founder Ellie Harrison said that the fare rise would spell misery for millions of ordinary people who use the railways.

She said that she founded the group after becoming a “pissed-off passenger” under privatisation and “wanted to do something about it.

“It’s about reminding people that we used to have public ownership of the railways and other industries. And that we can have it again,” she said.

Passing commuters agreed with Ms Harrison’s sentiments.

“An 8 per cent rise is not good news. I think the fares are already too high,” said Sharmaine Mackin, who had just travelled in to London from Bracknell in Berkshire.

But higher fares were only the tip of the iceberg for hard-up commuters who face the prospect of yet more money being bled out of the struggling rail network over the next 10 years.

A report commissioned by RMT has revealed that profit-taking and fragmentation costs were £883m in 2009 alone and more than £6.6 billion between 1997 and 2009.

The union predicted that profits to private rail companies could lose the railways £6.7bn over the next 10 years, while public subsidies are set to rise by 300 per cent.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “This independent report proves that privatisation is robbing our railways of £670m a year and RMT has calculated that this would equate to an annual 10 per cent cut in rail fares or free bus and rail travel for all children under the age 16.

“McNulty and the government are forcing through inflation-busting fare increases and savage cuts to maximise private train company profits. The whole policy of rail privatisation is exposed as an economic and social disaster.”

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