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Railway stations to be hit by more strikes against fee hikes

RAILWAY stations will be hit by nationwide protests this week as inflation-busting annual fare rises are once again imposed on British passengers.

Profiteering private rail operators have been given the government’s go-ahead to hike fares by 2.8 per cent; inflation in 2019 stood at 1.7 per cent.

The increase comes on top of £417 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies handed to the operators to maintain their profits.

Taxpayers are also forced to shell out even more cash to offset any profits the companies lose as a result of industrial action, such as rail union RMT’s fight to ensure safety-critical guards are kept on trains.

The protests on Thursday (January 2) are being organised by the Bring Back British Rail campaign group and the Association of British Commuters.

Rail workers’ union RMT will also stage a day of action against the fare rises.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The union will be sending a clear message that the government needs to put the interests of passengers and railway workers ahead of those of shareholders as well as losing its fixation with attacking the right to strike.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to introduce legislation to outlaw strikes by transport workers.

Seventeen private companies operate Britain’s railway system. They include firms run by the state-owned railway operators of Holland, France and Germany. Profits made from passengers in Britain help subsidise rail ticket prices in all three countries.

The government has made no secret of its ambition to get rid of guards — the McNulty review of 2011 said that the government’s “preferred option” was that all private rail operators should have driver-only operations for running trains on new train fleets, despite the guards’ record of saving lives in events such as derailments and collisions.

The commuters’ campaign groups will stage demonstrations at London’s Kings Cross station from 8 to 9.30am, London Liverpool Street station from 11.30am to 12.30pm, Norwich station from 10am to noon and Bolton station in Greater Manchester from 4.30 to 7.30pm.

The RMT protest at Kings Cross will start at 8am.

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