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Transport unions slam government's ‘staggeringly stupid’ decision to raise rail fares

HITTING passengers with the steepest train fare rises in nearly a decade amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis is “staggeringly stupid,” transport unions and campaigners warned today. 

From Tuesday, ticket prices in England and Wales will increase by 3.8 per cent – the biggest rise since January 2013, according to industry body the Rail Delivery group.

The increase, based on July 2021’s retail price index inflation rate plus one percentage point, will see the cost of an annual season ticket between Brighton and London go up by £194 to an eye-watering £5,302.

And commuters between Liverpool and Manchester will have to fork out an additional £105 as ticket prices reach £2,865.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Jacking up rail fares as we begin the journey out of a [Covid-19] pandemic is a staggeringly stupid move.

“It’s almost as though ministers want to force people off our railways and into cars in an effort to speed up our climate crisis.”

Mr Cortes accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “waxing lyrical” about levelling up despite not having “a clue about the needs of millions of people.”

Rail union RMT, which revealed research showing the cost of train journeys has increased by four times that of driving over the last decade, called for services to be nationalised.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The price of profiteering means instead of having fairer fares taxpayers are paying massive dividends to private rail companies.”

A fare increase is the “last thing commuters need,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said. 

“It is vital that our rail system recovers the passengers it lost at the start of the pandemic, especially if we want to keep to our climate commitments,” she added.

Campaign group Railfuture’s Bruce Williamson, who accused ministers of “stoking the fire of the cost-of-living crisis,” warned that passengers could be bankrupted if fare rises continue to be based on surging inflation rates. 

We Own It director Cat Hobbs called the increase “disgraceful” and said: “Hiking up rail fares in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis is really kicking passengers while they’re down.

“The people who need public transport the most are being priced out of using it, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Public ownership could save £1 billion a year, enough to fund an 18 per cent cut in rail fares or build 100 miles of new railway track.”

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