Welfare to work
According to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), British rail commuters ‘pay 10 times Italian prices’. On 2 January 2013, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle MP, TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes and other campaigners demonstrated about 2013 rail fare increases outside London’s St Pancras station.
[from the TSSA website]
Leaflets were handed to commuters listing stations in the South East where it now costs more than £5,000 for an annual season to get to work in London.*
Union general secretary Manuel Cortes, who was supported at the demo by Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister Maria Eagle, said: “It is simply morally wrong for a Government which has ushered in an age of austerity to penalise working people with these year-on-year inflation busting increases. Philip Hammond thought he was being ironic when he said that rail was now a rich man’s toy but this is what David Cameron is now turning into a harsh reality.
“Tens of thousands of commuters are now paying more than £5,000 a year for their season ticket just to get to work. That may be a blink of an eye to an old Etonian but it is a real burden to ordinary families who have seen their incomes severely squeezed in the past three years.”
The protest at St Pancras was repeated at 14 other stations across the country, including London’s Waterloo, Brighton, Bristol, Exeter, Derby, Sheffield, Middlesborough and Newcastle.
The union nationwide protest was supported by five other green and transport groups calling for an end to inflation plus fare rises and the return of the rail network to the public sector.
* Stations in the £5,000 annual season ticket club include, Bedford, Kings Lynn, Northampton, Colchester, Newbury, Battle and Milton Keynes.
Presently, farebox income on Britain’s railways is around 60% of costs, so while season ticket holders from Newbury and Kings Lynn etc may be paying £5,000, they are getting a subsidy of £3,300+. A sort of Robin-Hood-in-reverse situation. Long-distance rail commuting is kilometrically cheaper than for shorter distances, and the season ticket, per-journey, can work out lower than single instance travel in the off-peak.
It’s not obvious why travelling long distances daily, by rail, in the peaks, should attract a discount. People buy bread, washing powder, petrol, etc frequently, but they don’t get a discount. Businesses employing the commuters should be paying enough for them not to require what is effectively public welfare, to get to work.
What point are the CBT trying to make, in quoting Italian commuter train fares? Some rail fares are dearer in Britain than on the continent, and some are cheaper. Like its economy, Italy’s railways are in a precarious financial situation, and there is no Italian equivalent of the massive tidal commuter flows into London.