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New above inflation rail fare hike while privateers bailed out by £10bn

RAIL fares will rise by more than the rate of inflation next year despite taxpayers already pumping up to £10 billion into private operators’ pockets to help them through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fares usually rise in January but they will be “frozen” until March 1. Ripped-off passengers will then see fares rise by 2.6 per cent, one per cent above the retail prices index (RPI).

Typical increases will see a Brighton-London annual season ticket hiked by around £129 to £5,109, and a Manchester-Glasgow off-peak return rising by £2.30 to £90.60.

Rail unions and campaigners slammed the rise — the first above inflation since 2013 — announced by Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said that ticket prices were being “forced up to subsidise private profit” and called for “a publicly owned railway system that delivers reasonable fares.”

We Own It director Cat Hobbs said that passengers were once more being expected to foot the bill to protect the rail industry’s profits.

“To make this all the more galling, private rail companies have already received multi-million pound bailouts from the government during the Covid-19 crisis,” Ms Hobbs said.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Given the massive economic fallout from the virus the last thing we need to see is a kick in the teeth for passengers such as this.

“Ministers are well aware that millions have suffered this year with the uncertainty of employment, a changing picture on furlough provision, pay cuts, wages freezes and lost jobs.

“So, to reach for a hike in fares of this size is both extortionate and plain daft. And it’s also a massive kick in the teeth to our NHS heroes who face a pay cut in real terms while having to pay more for their rail fares.”

The government effectively converted existing rail franchises into management-fee contracts in March, following the collapse in demand for travel caused by the coronavirus crisis.

This insulated the privateers against losses, and is expected to have cost taxpayers an additional £10bn by mid-2021.

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