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Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Railways: Its Time to Make Fares Fair

Colchester Green Party will tomorrow (5th January) be supporting the Green Party nationally by holding a static rally and leafleting session outside Colchester North railway station from 7am - 9am to raise awareness about the latest hike in train fares. Regulated fares, including season tickets, will be increasing by 2.5% and the overall average farewill be up by 2.2%. This is yet another fare hike which takes no account of passengers' ability to pay and outstrips wage growth. Indeed, average wages only went up by 1.6% from 2013-2014. Once again hardworking commuters are being squeezed like cash cows by the government and railway companies, making it harder to make ends meet. Colchester commuter Andrew Denyer is quoted by the Campaign For Better Transport as stating:

"My monthly rail travel to London is £551 and after my travel and bills have been paid I am left with only a few hundred pounds to survive the month on. If my travel goes up much further it will not be worthwhile to work as so much of my salary is taken by rail and car travel costs. I have not had a pay increase for four years and I have a wife and two kids to look after. The fare from Colchester to London should be £300 a month. It's now rising so fast it will be £1000 a month by the end of the decade. Please see sense and freeze fares for commuters as we are the ones that will drag the country out of recession." Andrew Denyer

In recent years fares nationally have been hiked and hiked to such an extent that the overall level of increase is massive. For example the cost of a season ticket from Milton Keynes to London has risen by 23.5% since 2010. Below you can see how these increases are way above the overall rate of inflation:

Spokespeople for the railway companies will no doubt be interviewed tomorrow telling us that the reason fares are increasing is for maintenance and improvement works. This is both true and misleading at the same time, since they always fail to add that passengers are being asked to pay more so that the government pays less. They also fail to add that a huge amount of money (£305 million in 2012 alone) gets siphoned off into shareholders' profits by these privatised companies, all of which would be saved had the railways remained in public hands. The fare increases serve to drive people away from the railways and into their cars which is a major contributing factor towards congestion on our roads. Colchester is one of the most car dependent towns in England and is regularly gridlocked, as are the roads leading out of it. About 95% of commuters use their cars to get into London rather than the trains and the government seem determined to drive this figure up higher. It is not just that they are put off the trains by the fare increases, it is also the overcrowding, the lateness of the trains and the in ability to get a seat which does it. Why should people pay extortionate ticket prices for a delayed and overcrowded train where they have to stand in the vestibule with other down beaten looking people every morning?

All of this is why the Green Party believes that enough is enough and it is time to renationalise the railways. This would actually save the taxpayer money as profits would be paid back to the taxpayer rather than to shareholders. For example, before it was privatised, state owned East Coast paid back £177 million during 2012 alone. Yet as far as the privatised companies were concerned, during the same year (2012) they received £1.1 billion in subsidies from the taxpayer and £305 million of this went to the shareholders in profit rather than back to you and I.
Furthermore, because a public sector system would save the money paid in profits, this could also be used to keep fares down. Which is why, before privatisation, walk-up fares were always cheaper than driving and regulated fares/season tickets did not keep being hiked up at above inflation rates.

Renationalisation would be:

GREEN: Because it reduces car use by encouraging people back to cheaper public transport.

BETTER FOR COMMUTERS: Because money saved by not having to pay shareholders gets used to but more trains on and improve performance and quality.

BETTER FOR THE TAXPAYER: Because some of the government subsidies are paid back rather than eaten away in  profits.

Above all else it would MAKE FARES FAIR!

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