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Rail workers label train fare hikes a ‘national disgrace’

RAIL workers have condemned rising train fares as a “national disgrace.”

Statistics published by the RMT union show that most travellers are struggling to keep up with ticket prices — 70 per cent of passengers surveyed have been negatively affected as a result of price hikes.

The study comes as commuters get news today of the eye-watering fare increases due for 2020. The annual rise on most train fares is pegged to July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which will be announced at 9.30am by the Office for National Statistics.

Travellers fear that next year’s price hike could be as high as 3 per cent.

The RMT study of 1,000 people found that most commuters complain of having serious pressure on their monthly finances as a result of expensive train tickets, and that they are forced to cut back on other necessities as a result.

Other respondents said that the cost of tickets stops them from visiting family and friends more regularly, and that the high cost of rail travel means that people consider other forms of transport such as cars.

Despite the rise in fares — a cumulative rise of 37 per cent in the last decade — the union has complained that private train companies continue to cut and under-recruit workers in both station and onboard roles.

Additionally, 60 per cent of commuters said that rail fares offer “poor and awful” value for money, and 73 per cent said that their train company is motivated primarily by making a profit ahead of ensuring a good service for passengers.

In response, the RMT has planned demonstrations in more than 30 spots across the country today.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is a national disgrace that the majority of UK rail passengers say that rising rail fares have forced them to make cutbacks elsewhere.

“Our railways should be run as an affordable and accessible public service and not for private profit.

“[Rail tsar] Keith Williams has said he will prioritise passengers in his rail review. But unless he recommends renationalisation, it will be clear he is merely giving lip service to the idea of improving our railways for the benefit of passengers.”

The new fares will come into force in January.

Labour shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told the Star: “Rail travel is getting more expensive in real terms each year, even as services decline.

“It is a disgrace that passengers are having to make sacrifices to afford to travel to work.

“People are struggling because of the greed of train companies and the Tories’ ideological commitment to rail privatisation.

“Not only are these hikes unfair, they undermine action on climate change by pricing people off the railway.

“Labour will take the railways back into public ownership in order to improve services and cap fares, and to make it work for passengers, not shareholders.”

Tory Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris claimed: “It’s tempting to say fares should never rise, but the truth is that if we stop investing in our railway, then we’ll never see it improved.”

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