|Out at Paddington|
by New Worker
RAIL union activists were out in force at major stations throughout the country early on Monday morning protesting as the latest rise in rail fares came into effect.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the Aslef protesters at Kings Cross in London while senior RMT officers Alex Gordon and Eddie Dempsey were out at Paddington.
A recent survey has shown that rail travellers in Britain pay around six times as much for travel as their counterparts in most of Europe.
Passengers in Britain are currently spending 13 per cent of their wages on travel while Italian commuters pay two per cent, Spanish pay three per cent, and Germans pay four per cent. At the same time, a significant part of the British rail system is owned by the publicly owned railways of Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and China.
Commuters are now paying 25 per cent more on average for their season tickets since David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010. Workers’ transport costs have risen three times faster than wages have in the last five years.
Corbyn condemned the outrageous fare rises and the profits being extorted by foreign-owned rail companies. He said: “It seems the Tories have no objections to public ownership so long as the British public don’t get the benefit.
“It is a national disgrace that higher fares are squeezed out of Britain’s passengers every year so that dividends can be repatriated to Berlin, Paris or Amsterdam to subsidise other countries’ railways, or paid to private shareholders in Britain.”
And he reiterated his promised that renationalising Britain’s railways would be one of the first acts of a Labour government in 2020.
Corbyn added: “Labour has nothing against the public ownership of railways in other countries, far from it. But we want our own railways to be owned by the British people.
“Railways are part of the new green economy of the future. That’s why Labour is now pledged to bring our railways into democratic public ownership at home.
“A modern, publicly owned People’s Railway is central to our plans to rebalance economic growth, not just North-South but right across the country.
“So one of the first acts of the next Labour Government in 2020 will be to bring franchises into public ownership as soon as possible and start to create a properly integrated railway system with affordable fares â€“ in the interests both passengers and taxpayers.”
Also present at Kings Cross were Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary and Shadow Transport Secretary Lilian Greenwood as well as Mick Cash of the RMT and Manuel Cortes of the TSSA.
According to a recent YouGov poll 62 per cent of people in Britain agree that public ownership of the railways should be reconsidered.
Their main question is: if British railways are so profitable for foreign states and private corporations, why should Britain not reap the benefits for itself? Or put another way, why shouldn’t profits be invested in improving infrastructure and reducing travel costs for British travellers rather than going into someone else’s pockets?
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also insists that the Labour Party is now “fully behind bringing the railways back into public ownership”.
This policy was outlined at the 2015 Labour conference, when the party promised to “return private rail franchises into public ownership when they come to an end”.
This would mean around a third could be brought back into public ownership by 2025 if Corbyn wins the 2020 general election. The five franchises due to expire between 2020 and 2025 are Thameslink, Southern, and Great Northern, Chiltern Railways, East Coast, Transpennine Express, and Northern.