The general secretary of the TSSA has called for ‘a new financial settlement’ which would end private profit in the rail industry and set ‘fair fares’.
Manual Cortes’ comments were made as all three main unions are planning more walkouts during August in the dispute over pay, working conditions and jobs, which has already led to four national RMT rail strikes, with two more set to follow later this month. The drivers’ union ASLEF is also staging another stoppage at nine passenger operators on 13 August, and TSSA has given notice of a strike or action short of a strike at 11 operators on 18 and 20 August, which will coincide with the RMT action.
As inflation is now in double figures, this has laid the foundation for a record fare increase in January if the current RPI formula is followed.
Mr Cortes said: ‘Rail privatisation with the regular hikes in fares demanded by profiteers has been an albatross around the necks of passengers for far too long. We already have the highest walk on fares in Europe by far and the system by which we finance our railways is not fit for purpose.
‘In the face of the escalating Tory cost of living crisis Ministers must think again and end the profit motive. What’s needed instead is a new financial settlement for our railways.
‘For too long we have seen commuters clobbered by above inflation fare rises while the shareholders of private rail companies laughed all the way to the bank. We need our railways to be fully in public hands and working for all of us as they do elsewhere in Europe.
‘There’s no doubt that yet more steep increases in fares to boost greedy shareholders will simply deter passengers. The net effect would be to drive people into their cars – something which would be a disaster for our country and our fight against climate change.
‘Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister should make a commitment on day one to remove profit from the running of our railways so we can have a fair ticketing regime and also put in place a new financial settlement for our railways which encourages people to move from road to rail.
‘This is vital when so many people who want to use our rail network are priced off, particularly at a time when millions are facing real economic hardship.’
Meanwhile, the chair of the Rail Delivery Group Steve Montgomery has issued an open invitation to ASLEF’s leadership to meet him for ‘meaningful talks’.
Speaking on Friday he said: ‘I am ready and willing to talk to the leadership of ASLEF today, tomorrow or indeed any time next week. We know our people are feeling the pinch and we want to give them a pay rise, but that is only affordable through reforms to deliver a better, safer, and more efficient railway for customers and taxpayers by updating outdated and inflexible working practices, which have seen costs spiral.’