Ho, ho, ho... it’s that time of year
IT’S that time of year again: rail fare increases announced. Cue passenger shock, horror and justifiable anger... and from government and rail industry spokesmen? Misleading and bland platitudes about the extra fare income going straight into track, infrastructure and rolling stock improvements. To borrow someone else’s words, ho ho ho.
One, most train operating companies own nothing: they pay leasing companies for the right to use their trains, they pay rent for the stations, they pay Network Rail for allowing them to use the tracks. So how can they invest in anything?
Two, most train operating companies (including freight) are privately owned and are more concerned with ensuring shareholders receive dividends than they are with us, the poor passengers. More money leaving the industry. It has recently changed slightly for the better in Wales.
Three, it costs each train operating company millions of pounds to put in a bid to take over an expiring franchise agreement. Money leaving the industry. It costs several operating companies a fortune to pay an income-based fee to the Westminster government, in some cases helping almost to bankrupt the company (see England’s east coast line). More fare income leaving the industry.
Another fortune is spent on all companies paying experts to split the income of each ticket according to the number of trains (of other companies) using the station you board at. Another covey of experts spend their time analysing the blame for delays and cancellations... like is it the fault of the train company? Network Rail? A third party? More money not producing a single new train or mile of track.
Even the Tories now admit their rail privatisation plan has been a disaster. It has begun to improve in Wales but only when our Cardiff Bay Senedd has 100% control of the Welsh rail industry can we complete the job. Meanwhile, fare increases are an insult to the long-suffering passenger.