Our rail fares are 5 times more than in Europe. Still they found a brand new way to f*ck over passengers.

East coast train and Chris Grayling r
James Wright

UK rail fares are up to five times more than elsewhere in Europe. Still, private rail company Arriva Trains Wales found a brand new way to fuck over passengers.

Expensive fares

Commuters between Luton and London St Pancras, for example, spend 14% of their monthly earnings on train tickets, according to a report from Action for Rail. That’s for a £387 monthly pass. Compare that to £61 (2.4% of average monthly wage) in France or £62 in Italy (3.1%) for a similar journey (where services are predominantly publicly owned). That’s more than a five-fold increase in cost for Britons, where rail is privatised.

When questioned on the affairs of private railways, Conservative secretary for transport Chris Grayling has simply said:

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I don’t run the railways.

The con continues

Passenger Adam Howells claimed that Arriva Trains Wales took 10% of the money in his wallet, after already charging him £2 for reclaiming it.

Howells also pointed out that the money from his wallet was already in the Arriva Trains Wales till. This provoked outrage from others:

After initially defending the 10% policy, Arriva Trains Wales has now U-turned with “immediate effect”. But rail companies still charge people up to £30 to return lost items.

Lost property charges

While a rail company taking money out of a passenger’s wallet seemed to be new, charges for lost property are longstanding under privatisation. Companies typically bill passengers about £25.

Outsourcing also established disjointed services, because separate companies run different train lines. That means there is no centralised system for lost property. Campaigners note that makes it difficult for passengers to recover lost items. Dervish Mertcan, from Transport Focus, has said:

There are over 20 train companies and no centralised database. Some train companies don’t even run their own lost property service so you have contact the outsourced company.

The scam

An Arriva Trains Wales spokesperson told Wales Online:

Tens of thousands of items are lost on the railway network every year. To safely store, record and process all these items takes a considerable amount of resource and as such we, like all other train operators in the UK, have a small handling and administration fee which is clearly outlined on our website and passenger’s charter and our social media team have passed these details to the customer.

But in 2012, for example, Arriva Trains (owner of Arriva Trains Wales) received a government subsidy of £349m. That’s on top of the money they get from expensive tickets. Both cash streams then go into the pockets of shareholders and executives. Before standing down in late 2015, Arriva Trains CEO David Martin made £1.8m that year.

Private rail companies have no competition, because people have to travel at certain times. That means they can charge as much as they like, while cutting back on services to maximise profits.

“Opportunistic theft”

One Twitter user wondered what the reaction would be if a publicly-owned police force took money out of people’s wallets:

Lost property fees are part of a long list of scams since Conservative prime minister John Major privatised UK railways. The outsourcing was then maintained under Tony Blair’s Labour.

Now Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to bring railways back into public ownership. Meanwhile, the Conservatives seem ideologically committed to privatisation, no matter what the strikes or cost.

Public ownership would mean cheaper fares, more investment in services and better conditions for workers. And we certainly wouldn’t have private companies taking money out of people’s wallets. It’s a no-brainer.

Get Involved!

– Check out Bring Back British Rail.

– Hop on board with We Own it.

Featured image via Dan Sellers/ WikiCommons and UK in Japan – FCO/ Flickr

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James Wright