Time to end rip-off rail fare rises

Fiona Onasanya
Fiona Onasanya
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We have been asked why the PT is publishing Fiona Onasanya’s columns following her conviction at the Old Bailey.

Editor - Mark Edwards

A t the beginning of each year, there is usually justified outcry over rail fare increases, but this year in particular and the protests earlier this month seemed like a turning point in the battle against rip-off rail.

It probably does not help that last year, more services were cancelled or significantly delayed than we’ve seen in 17 years, with overcrowding also at a level that leaves many of the country’s key routes not fit for purpose. How is it fair that passengers are being told to pay up to 3.1% more for services that are either declining in standards and punctuality or just outright failing?

Failure should not be rewarded in this way – especially as train companies are still making a healthy profit. This is at the expense of passengers, and it is a slap in the face of commuters and passengers who have been forced to deal with another year of calamitous chaos on our railways.

The public mood continues to shift further towards solutions such as nationalisation on this issue year by year. As the situation has continued to get worse, with utter chaos on the Northern network, a recent YouGov poll has suggested that 56% of the public support nationalisation, with only 15% opposed to it.

As far as I am concerned, this is a predictable and reasonable response to rail fares rising nearly three times as much as wages in this country.

The Transport Secretary has the power to freeze, or cap, rail fare increases, and this is something that passengers deserve after a marked drop in standards and punctuality. I am aware that he is probably preoccupied with his no-deal Brexit ferry contracts and drones at airports, but the least this government could do is give a little back to passengers, even if it is only those who travel on the worst routes.

Public transport in Europe is comparatively cheaper, and not packed to the rafters on a regular basis.

I am of the opinion that this is because their rail networks work for passengers as opposed to being a plaything for train companies and fat cat bosses. The government has the power to intervene, yet it is simply standing by while working people up and down the country are getting ripped off.

It is simply beyond me how the government can justify these fare increases, especially after the botched implementation of new timetables, increasingly poor service and the lack of improvements to the network that these fare increases are supposed to fund in the first place.

A nationalised railway would put people before profits and commuters before conglomerates. This step doesn’t have to be a return to the 1970s, but a step forward into a new era of high-tech, publicly owned industry that extends democracy to those who actually use the services. Otherwise, passengers will continue to be ignored as yearly increases in ticket prices, and yearly decreases in performance, become a worrying and unacceptable norm.