From the Guardian
It’s the first week of January, so it’s time for that painful annual ritual – the introduction of yet more rail fare rises. No wonder rail passengers have had enough.(1) Fares are increasing much faster than wages, with regulated ticket prices having risen by more than 20% since 2010.(2)
Figures released today by the Campaign for Better Transport show what this could mean for a constituency like mine in Brighton. Average ticket prices have soared(3) by more than 20% for Brighton-London commuters, for example, whose journey to and from work could cost the equivalent of 8.6 weeks of net earnings – more than £4,400. That’s 17% of the average regional salary, and a price increase of £745 under the coalition. And while today’s rise sees regulated fare hikes capped at 2.5%(4), the cost increase on unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets, will be left to train companies’ own discretion.(5)
Passengers in this country pay the highest fares in Europe to travel on services that all too often are unreliable, understaffed, and overcrowded. After two decades of privatisation, the private sector has not delivered the innovation and investment that were once promised.(6)
Moreover, private rail companies still remain dependent on public subsidies to run their services.(7) But these same companies can then turn over up to an estimated 90% of their operating profits to shareholders.(7) This blatant transfer of public money means that the public purse is effectively propping up a failing rail system for private gain.(8)
The Rebuilding Rail report(9), published by Transport for Quality of Life, conservatively estimates that about £1.2bn is lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation. The irony is that some of the biggest profiters are the state-owned rail companies of our European neighbours. Yet that’s money that could, and should, be reinvested to improve our own rail services and reduce fares.
That’s why on Monday, I will be joining campaigners from groups including RMT, Action for Rail, Compass and the People’s Assembly at rallies at stations all around the country to call for rail to be brought back into public ownership, with passengers having a greater say in the development of the system. We are proposing that the government would take back individual franchises when they expire, or when companies fail to meet their conditions. The enormous savings generated could and should then be reinvested in rail infrastructure, and to reduce the soaring cost of fares.(10)
1. Really? People are quitting their jobs in London to work in Brighton because of rail fares?
2. Which is about 3.6% per annum.
3. 3.6% is hardly "soared"
4. Why? Why 2.5%? There's limited supply. Why shouldn't rail companies charge more?
5. So, why do commuters get their fares capped but non-commuters don't? Where's the logic in that? The rail firms get subsidies for running unprofitable routes, but if we just allowed them to charge the market rate for commuters, that would make the thing more profitable, and so we could reduce our subsidies to them.
6. Well, probably because the private sector is no longer responsible for the bits that require the investment and innovation, which is to say, track and signalling. And because there's not much to "invest" in. Plus the franchise thing means that none of them can invest in the long term. The Stagecoach buses I go on have nicer seating than most trains and wifi, but that's because they own those buses and no-one can take it away from them.
7. Yes, but so did British Rail when they ran their services. So do SNCF for lots of services. If you want a rail service rather than just commuter services, you need subsidies.
8. Failing rail service? No, that was British Rail. Rail's not perfect today, but compared to the days of BR, the trains are more reliable than they were then.
9. Which is full of romantic idealising of European rail services. No mention of the near 8 billion euros of subsidy per annum (no, really) that SNCF receives.
10. You can't. Not without changing EU law. The thing that is almost never mentioned about rail privatisation is that it was done that way because EU directive 91/440 said we had to do it that way. True, lots of countries have dragged their heels on it, but Lucas is pro-EU, so presumably wouldn't want us to go breaking any EU laws, would she?
Friday, 2 January 2015
From the Guardian