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Beleaguered commuters learnt on 15 August that they will face yet another increase in rail fares from January. We can expect a 3.2% rise - more than average pay increases - on around 40% of fares, mainly on city and commuter routes.
The permitted price increase is linked to the 'RPI' inflation figures released by the Office for National Statistics. This most recent promised hike, coming on top of a 3.6% increase last year, will see the cost of annual tickets go up by hundreds of pounds.
The Campaign for Better Transport says commuters in Britain on an average salary now spend around a fifth of take-home pay on train tickets to and from work!
In typical Tory fashion, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has done his utmost to foster divisions between commuting workers and train workers. He has offered to cap fare hikes at the lower 'CPI' inflation rate, which ignores the rising cost of housing, if transport unions agree to their members' pay being capped at that rate too.
But rail staff and commuters are on the same side. Both face attacks by the Tories and their big business mates. The answer is public ownership and democratic control by workers and passengers, with services subsidised to guarantee quality, safety, reliability and decent wages for all.
The fares announcement comes against a background of deteriorating services, with mass cancellations taking place on some lines since changes to timetables back in May.
On Socialist Party campaign stalls outside Salford and Manchester's busiest stations, served by the shambolic Northern Rail franchise, people queue to sign petitions demanding rail nationalisation.
The anger towards private profiteers such as Northern Rail is palpable. Commuters understand it is the failing of the private sector, and not the fault of rail staff or their unions.
The overwhelming majority of commuters we have spoken to are also vocal in support of keeping guards on the trains, which transport union RMT is leading strikes for.
All public transport should be nationalised, under democratic workers' control and management. Jeremy Corbyn should commit to taking this step immediately if he is elected, rather than just taking rail franchises back as and when each is up for renewal.
It is clear that private companies, driven by profit and greed, cannot provide a service which meets the needs of workers and commuters. Only a socialist system of democratic planning can satisfy the needs of commuters and rail staff alike.
Chris 'Failing' Grayling's hypocrisy knows no bounds.
We have now learnt that the former boss of privatiser Carillion, Mark Davies, has landed another fat-cat salary as managing director in charge of the multibillion-pound first phase of the HS2 rail project. This is despite the fact that in his former role he oversaw the company's collapse, resulting in the loss of thousands of workers' livelihoods.
At the same time, the transport secretary announces he will expect rail workers to pay for a lower increase in fares by having employers use the lower 'CPI' inflation rate for future pay negotiations, instead of the more realistic 'RPI' rate!
Grayling has repeatedly been shown to be totally incompetent in dealing with other fiascos on the railways, such as driver-only operation and timetable changes.
The RMT has made it clear that our members will not tolerate these attacks on their living standards just so this government can line the pockets of its rich friends, the bosses in charge of profit-making rail companies and their wealthy shareholders. Our members will fight tooth and nail, as always, to oppose any attempt to impose below-inflation pay 'rises'.
The RMT also campaigns for affordable fares and reliable, decent rail services for passengers. No to divide and rule! Nationalise the railways!
Car industry (37)
Public transport (71)
Article dated 22 August 2018
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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