Union calls for cap on rail profits

04 January 2013

‘This government backs the rich investor and ignores the average passenger,’ Mick insists. ‘Every year it has been in office, rail fares have risen above inflation while investors’ dividends have been well above inflation. The railways are being run for the benefit of private capitalists to the detriment of working commuters and ordinary passengers.’

He was speaking as a House of Commons Transport Committee report demanded that the government rules out plans to introduce hugely expensive ‘super-peak time’ fares for passengers travelling in the rush hour. Committee Chair Louise Ellman says this ignores the fact that many lower-paid workers ‘have no choice’ but to travel at those times. ‘That is when they have to be at work,’ she points out.

Government ministers believe hugely increased fares in rush hours would drive people off trains at this time and thus prevent over-crowding. ‘It just shows how out of touch these people are,’ says Mick Whelan. ‘They want to shove working people off the trains so their rich chums can have a comfy seat. They want to create Bullingdon Railways.’

The Commons committee warns about the effects of cuts of £3.5 billion by 2018/19 that were proposed in the McNulty Report and have been enthusiastically backed by the government. It says cuts of this magnitude raise serious concerns about ‘safety, staffing and the protection of passengers’. It was similar fears over plans to give private rail companies control of track and signal maintenance.

Louise Ellman’s committee also called for ‘a strong, single economic regulator for the rail industry’ and she says, ‘It is vital we know far more about how public money is spent so that there is confidence it does not leak out of the system in the form of unjustified profits.

‘The government should publish and consult on a clear statement of what the subsidy is for and where it should be targeted.’

Mick Whelan agrees – but says its tasks must be clearly defined and explained to taxpayers and passengers. And he insists that a cap on private rail profits must be central to its work.

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