Protests on the railways as 7% increase sparks campaign

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, joins Labour politicians Emily Thornberry and Andrew McDonald. Picture; PA

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, joins Labour politicians Emily Thornberry and Andrew McDonald. Picture; PA

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Rail union TSSA will launch a campaign for public control of the railways today as commuters returning to work face fare increases of up to 7 per cent.

ScotRail passengers saw among the lowest annual rises on Monday, with peak fares up by 1.9 per cent and off-peak tickets by 0.9 per cent.

In addition, monthly and annual season ticket holders have been given one free week’s travel because of disruption last autumn.

Cross-Border operators have brought in larger increases, with the highest at Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec), of 4.9 per cent on average.

Some of its fares, including an off-peak single between Edinburgh and London, have gone up by 7 per cent. Tickets on Virgin Trains’ west coast services, such as Glasgow-
London, have increased by an average of 2.4 per cent.

Vtec said it had added more cheaper advance tickets, “making it easier to get a bargain when booking ahead” and some tickets were cheaper than when it began operating in 2015.

CrossCountry was unable to provide an average fare rise figure, but rises include 3.9 per cent for an anytime (peak) return between Bristol and Edinburgh. The average rise across Britain is 2.3 per cent.

The latest increases reignited the debate over Britain’s fiendishly complicated fares system, with claims that peak tickets are dearer than in some other European countries.

However, rail expert Mark Smith said Britain had cheaper fares too.

He said: “The big picture is that Britain has the most commercially aggressive fares in Europe, with the highest fares designed to get maximum revenue from business travel, and some of the lowest fares designed to get more revenue by filling more seats.”

TSSA members and other protesters will gather at Glasgow Central at 5pm ahead of a public meeting with other unions and the STUC in the city centre tomorrow. The forum will be held at the Renfield Centre in Bath Street at 6.30pm.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “As the British government moves 
rudderless towards triggering Article 50, the Tories must be made to end the scandalous situation which means 
Britain’s rail network is now nothing more than a gravy-train for Germany, France and Holland.

“Profits made from the imposed fare rises this week will continue to be used to subsidise the fares of passengers in other EU countries rather than invested in making things better for UK rail passengers.” But a spokesman for the Scottish Government, which has pledged a public sector bid for the next ScotRail franchise from 2025, said: “Not a penny of dividend has been transferred from ScotRail to the Netherlands.

“For ScotRail to make profits, it must deliver on the demanding performance levels and transformational investments which the Scottish Government specified.”

alastairdalton@jpress.co.uk