London-Brighton route reaches four times cost of its Spanish equivalent, writes JAMES LOVELAND
BRITAIN’S rail commuters will return to work this morning to news that they cough up nearly three times more of their wages than their continental counterparts on fares.
Campaigners will be at London’s King’s Cross to ram home the message that privatisation doesn’t pay as bleary-eyed passengers face the annual post-Christmas hangover — another big rise in fares.
The Trades Union Congress warned that ticket costs — up an average 2.5 per cent today — were now so high that it is having a major economic effect.
Ticket prices have risen by 27 per cent since the Tories came to power in 2010.
But campaigners calculate that the costs of dividend payments, debt write-offs and other costs of privatisation total £1 billion a year — enough to fund an 18 per cent price cut.
“Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people’s wages, leaving precious little for other bread-and-butter expenses,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“We’ve ended up with slower trains and higher fares than countries who have kept their trains in public hands.”
A study comparing tickets in Britain to similar journeys on state-owned networks on the continent showed how far privatised rail lags behind.
The 50-mile run from London to Brighton on privately operated trains costs £390.60 a month — 17 per cent of average earnings.
But in Italy and Spain a comparable monthly fare costs £118.78 and £98.19 respectively — just 6 per cent of the median wage.
Rail unions Aslef, RMT and TSSA will join protesters at King’s Cross.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said high prices were damaging the “economic future of this country.”
RMT counterpart Mick Cash said private train companies were “laughing all the way to the bank.
“We should cut fares and not staff and public ownership would allow us to do just that,” he said.
And TSSA leader Manuel Cortes branded the current situation the “economics of the madhouse” as continental state-run firms profited from British privatisation to subsidise their own ticket prices.