WITH train fares rising three times faster than wages Britain’s railways should be re-nationalised in order to help out hard-pressed commuters, Stroud Green Party has said.
Local Green politicians and party activists took part in a day of action on Thursday (January 2) to protest against an average 3.1 per cent increase in the cost of regulated train tickets.
Distributing leaflets outside Stroud train station, members of the party urged rail users to support their campaign to bring the country’s privatised rail network back under public ownership.
Cllr Molly Scott-Cato, who leads the Green group on Stroud District Council, also asked commuters to sign a petition calling on the Government to re-nationalise the Great Western rail franchise when it expires in two years' time.
The petition, which she set-up last October, has received almost 1,300 signatures.
Green Party figures argue that a publicly owned railway would lead to lower fares and lower subsidies from the taxpayer.
They point to the success of the publicly owned Directly Operated Railways Company which operates the East Coast mainline franchise and has delivered £600 million back to the Treasury.
Cllr Scott Cato, an economics professor who is standing as the Green Party’s lead candidate for the south west in this year’s European elections, said: “Yet again passengers are being hit with above inflationary rises in rail fares at a time when wages are stagnant and passengers in the UK are already paying some of the highest fares in Europe.
“For that they have to endure overcrowded trains and unreliable services. Ironically, profits from railway companies in the UK are skimmed off to be invested in trains and tracks in other countries.
“For example, train operating company Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn, which is in turn owned by the German government.”
Cllr Scott-Cato claimed that taking individual rail franchises run by private companies back into public hands when they expire, or when firms fail to meet their conditions, could save the Government over £1 billion a year.
“This is money that could and should be reinvested in services, and also used to reduce fares,” she said.
“We urge the public to support our campaign and sign our petition; it is time to get our railways back on the right track and working for the common good.”
However, speaking on Thursday, the day the train fare increases came into effect, the rail minister Stephen Hammond, said: "The Government understands concerns rail passengers have about the costs of fares and the impact they have on household budgets.
"That is why, for the first time in a decade, regulated fares will not rise on average by more than the rate of inflation, offering relief for families and hard-working people.
"As well as protecting regulated fares, the Government is driving forward the biggest programme of rail modernisation programmes ever, with £38 billion being invested over the next five years.
"That means new state-of-the-art trains, better stations and hundreds of miles of electrified track which will help cut journey times, provide better connections and stimulate growth across the country."
To sign Cllr Scott-Cato's e-petition to take the Great Western franchise back into public ownership go to: epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56244