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Union slams rail privateers' ‘cash-grab scandal’

Rail companies pocketing 15 pence out of every pound passengers pay, RMT says

PRIVATE rail companies pocketing 15 pence out of every pound passengers pay is a “corporate cash-grab scandal,” the RMT union said today.

The transport union said “shameless profiteering” should be replaced by investment to improve services for passengers and staff working conditions.

The comments came as the government imposed an above-inflation ticket price hike of around 2.6 per cent yesterday in a further “slap in the face” for passengers.

Labour said the average commuter will now be paying £3,144 for their season ticket — £950, or 43 per cent, more than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash condemned “a corporate cash-grab scandal of epic proportions.

“This money would be far better spent being reinvested in improving the rail network and scrapping the rail staff pay freeze.

“It’s high time the government ended the farce of privatisation.”

Rail franchises have been effectively nationalised since March 2020 with taxpayers, under Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs), covering basic costs and paying operators a “management fee” which adds to profits and dividends.  

The government has also continued to pay lease costs enabling rolling stock companies (Roscos) to make over £220 million.

RMT estimates that Roscos’ profits, combined with the train operators’ fees, stand to total a massive £370m in profit made over the past year, equivalent to around 15p in every pound spent by passengers.

Ticket price increases, deferred from January due to the latest Covid-19 lockdown, will see passengers in Wales also faced with a near 2.6 per cent rise, whereas the Scottish government is implementing a smaller rise of 1.6 per cent for peak time travel.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon warned the move would make rail travel “unaffordable” for many, a situation described by Johnbosco Nwogbo, campaigner at We Own It, as “yet another slap in the face” for passengers.

“It’s key workers who will face the brunt of this as they’re the ones still taking the train to get to work,” he warned.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it “will not help commuters and city centres recover.”

She added: “Any fresh form of privatisation would cost passengers by sucking out money for shareholders. We need the railways back in public hands.”

Rail unions also called for trains to be properly nationalised, with train drivers’ union Aslef labelling ticket price rises “inappropriate” and the TSSA slamming the government’s “utterly misguided approach” which it said would discourage passengers to return according to general secretary Manuel Cortes. 

A DfT spokeswoman said this was the lowest rise in four years “despite unprecedented taxpayer support” for the industry.

“By delaying the change in fares, passengers renewing season tickets were able to get a better deal.

“We will set out further plans to offer cheaper tickets in due course.”

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