Ho, ho, ho... it’s that time of year

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - John D Rogers Pres­i­dent, Rail­fu­ture Cymru

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.

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