'Pandemic profiteering' - Rail fare hikes condemned by Labour Party and union leaders

Unions and Labour have attacked increases in rail fares and branded them “lamentable”, claiming the average commuter is paying 43% more than a decade ago.

Ahead of Monday’s 2.6% increase, union leaders also accused train operators of “profiteering” despite a huge reduction in the number of passengers because of the coronavirus crisis.

Labour said its analysis of more than 180 train routes showed that the average commuter will be paying £3,144 for their season ticket – £950 more than in 2010; the equivalent of 43%.

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Average fares have also risen two-and-a-half times faster than wages, the Opposition added.

Unions and Labour have attacked increases in rail fares. Picture: Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “This fare hike will make rail unaffordable for many and discourage people from getting back on to the network when lockdown restrictions ease in the coming months.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “As the Government raises fares for rail passengers and freezes pay for rail workers, it is business as usual for the private rail industry.

“Rail companies raking in hundreds of millions of pounds in profit every year prior to the pandemic was bad enough but now in a corporate Covid cash grab scandal of epic proportions, we learn they stand to actually increase the share they take in ticket revenues with profits equivalent to 15p of every pound passengers paid on rail fares.

“This pandemic profiteering is totally unacceptable and rather than lining the pockets of big business, this money would be far better spent being reinvested in improving the rail network for passengers, and scrapping the pay freeze imposed on key worker rail staff.”

A Department for Transport spokesman added: “Passengers returning to the railway deserve punctual and reliable journeys at a fair price.

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“This is the lowest increase in four years – despite unprecedented taxpayer support for the rail industry during the pandemic of around £10 billion, and billions more being spent on new infrastructure.

“By delaying the change in fares, passengers who needed to renew season tickets were able to get a better deal, and we will set out further plans to offer cheaper, more flexible tickets for commuters in due course.”

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