ASLEF at Congress: Tuesday

12 September 2018

Lesley Atkins-Smith, of King's Cross branch, moved motion 11, on high fares and the decline in season ticket sales, on Tuesday afternoon. It was seconded by Mick Carney, TSSA, and passed unanimously.

‘We’ve all heard the narrative. The operators, the Rail Delivery Group, and the Tories tell us that the privatised railway must be brilliant. We have record numbers using our railway. Overcrowding is a sign of success. Stagecoach, FirstGroup, DB Schenker and rest are doing such a good job that people are willing to pay huge fares for the brilliant service they provide. We all know it’s true because, if you go to East Croydon, Manchester Piccadilly, or Bristol Temple Meads, and ask people why they are taking the train, the will tell you it’s because they think Southern, Northern, and Great Western are doing such a wonderful job in running trains!

‘Congress, it’s time to recognise the truth about growth on our railway. Of course ASLEF is delighted that the pattern over the last 20 years have been one of growth for our industry. More people on trains means fewer car journeys, less carbon emissions, and fewer road deaths. But let’s not kid ourselves that this is a success of privatisation.

‘Most people who commute on trains do so because they have little choice. Jobs have become concentrated in city centres where housing costs have gone through the roof. Working people are having to move out of the centres of our cities and commute from further away, meaning a train journey is the only viable option. Meanwhile, the industry has failed to increase capacity, leading to intolerable levels of overcrowding.

‘For this reason, the government and train operators haven’t had to worry about fares going up at a faster rate than pay. What choice do rail commuters have? Well congress, there is only so long that holds. Rail passenger numbers in the UK fell last year to 1.7 billion in the biggest decrease since privatisation. Usage fell by 1.4% in the 2017/18 financial year, the first annual fall since 2009/10 and the biggest since 1993/94. Season ticket sales have plummeted 9.2%. Season tickets represent the steady income by which operators are able to work out expenditure for the year.

‘Are we surprised? In January 2018 fares across all operators were 20% higher in real terms than they were in January 1995. Last month we found out that fares will be going up by 3.2% in January next year. Fares in Britain have risen by 42% since 2008 while average weekly pay has gone up by only 18%.

‘So we’ve hit a tipping point where people are having to consider whether it’s worth the cost to commute on our railways. Whether they should take alternatives modes, no matter how inconvenient, or whether it’s worth them working at all.

‘And it’s not just passengers who will suffer. It’s the taxpayer, too. As passenger numbers fall, and revenue goes down, train operators are reneging on contracts, or looking to do so. And guess who picks up most of the bill?

‘The railway is a social good. It benefits the whole of society, not just those who use the service. Pricing people off the network is bad for us all. So it’s time to end the expensive and broken franchising farce, stop money leaving our industry in profits, and bring out network back into public ownership.’




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