Another Large Fare Rise Prompts Calls For The Re-Nationalisation of Rail

british_rail17:07 Tuesday 13th August 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[R]ONNIE BARBOUR: Rail passengers will see an average fare increase of 4.1% from next January. It’s based on the inflation figure for July which stands at 3.1%. This rise applies to season tickets and off-peak InterCity fares. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says the increases will help pay for major improvements. (TAPE)
PATRICK MCLOUGHLIN: What we’re seeing at the moment is huge investment in our rail network. It’s needed investment. It’s vital that it takes place. We’ve also announced further investment to go on to upgrade a lot of our railway lines for electrification, which makes it cheaper to operate. (LIVE)
RONNIE BARBOUR: Some of the busiest routes could see a rise as high as 9%. That’s because train companies are able to set fares at up to 5% above the Government’s regulated increase for some lines. Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle says regular commuters will be the worst hit. (TAPE)
MARIA EAGLE: I think that David Cameron and the Government are out of touch if they think that it’s OK to keep piling this misery on commuters whose incomes are stagnating or going down. (LIVE)
RONNIE BARBOUR: Campaign groups have said it could put people off using trains altogether, as people’s levels of satisfaction is already low. The train companies say they need to increase fares in order to deliver service improvements, and that is good value for money. Thomas Ableman from Chiltern Railways. (TAPE)
THOMAS ABLEMAN: The average season ticket on Chiltern Railways costs £3000. And I can fully understand why that seems a huge sum for the passenger to spend in one transaction. However, each season ticket holder then goes on to make sixteen thousand miles worth of travel with that season ticket. Now if you tried to make sixteen thousand miles worth of travel by car, you could never afford to do it for £3000. (LIVE)
RONNIE BARBOUR: This morning members of the TUC were handing out postcards to passengers at Peterborough Station. Jill Murdoch is a rail worker and an active union member. She was there this morning. Jill, good evening to you.
JILL MURDOCH: Good evening.
RONNIE BARBOUR: What was on the postcards?
JILL MURDOCH: It was complaining about the fare rise, and saying that the fare rises that keep happening to us are largely .. or the extent of them, the size of them, are largely because it’s a privatised railway. And it’s calling for much more sense about the way the railway is run, and calling for a return to some form of public ownership. And we were asking passengers to fill in their name and address on the card and send it to their MP.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Renationalisation. Is that what you want?
JILL MURDOCH: Definitely.
RONNIE BARBOUR: For the whole system?
JILL MURDOCH: Yes. For the vast majority of the system. As you will know, East Coast MainLine has been run by the Government, it’s been in public ownership since 2009, at the point when the private company just said it couldn’t make enough profit, and gave the keys back to the Government. And that railway, in those few years, has given £602 million back into the Treasury, which is £220 million more than Virgin’s West Coast MainLine, a private line obviously, has given back to the Government. But in that same period, Virgin has given £200 million in dividends to shareholders, just for shareholders to put in their pockets.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Some of the older members Jill .. I’m sure you’re too young to remember, but some of the old members will remember the bad days of British Rail, and how bad the system actually was at the end, when it became privatised.
JILL MURDOCH: I certainly am old enough to remember many of the good days of British Rail. I worked for British Rail for a long time, and yes, there were great difficulties, and the railway was starved of money by the governments for many years. and different governments, when governments changed, there were different policies towards the railway. But the railway actually was run very well, given the amount of money it had to run. And in the last few years it had turned itself around. And if you remember the early days of the InterCity rail network, that was an excellent service which actually made profit under British Rail, which is very unusual for any railway anywhere in the world.
RONNIE BARBOUR: The issue of course is the Labour Party, when they were in power, had the chance to renationalise and didn’t. Do you sense them getting warm at all Jill to the idea of bringing it into public ownership again if they got back in power?
JILL MURDOCH: I do feel that they are as you put it getting warmer towards it. They certainly didn’t bring it back into public ownership when they could have done. And I do feel that they are getting warmer towards it. Maria Eagle certainly does not appear to be ruling it out. And in fact the Prospective Labour party candidate for Peterborough was helping give out leaflets this morning at Peterborough Station, Lisa Forbes. So I do feel they’re warming to it. Because of course you’ve got to remember that it wouldn’t cost any money to speak of to take back the rail franchises for things like the West Coast mainLine, the Cross-Country service, Northern Rail etcetera. It wouldn’t cost much to take them back into public ownership, because those companies don’t own anything. They’re just running a franchise. You just have to wait for the end of the franchise, and then run it in public ownership like East Coast MainLine is.
RONNIE BARBOUR: Jill, thanks for your time tonight.