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.
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:
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.
— Adam Howells (@AdamHowells) September 11, 2018
Howells also pointed out that the money from his wallet was already in the Arriva Trains Wales till. This provoked outrage from others:
Blatant theft from @ArrivaTW
— Gordon Nixon (@gnixon88) September 13, 2018
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.
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.
One Twitter user wondered what the reaction would be if a publicly-owned police force took money out of people’s wallets:
This is opportunistic and a tax on lost https://t.co/3gpzwmDmjp school ground bully behaviour! No mention of 10% of content for wallets in charges, but if true that’s quite frankly disgraceful and opportunistic theft. Imagine if @swpolice did the same for lost property.Uproar!
— Tim Siddle (@tim_siddle) September 13, 2018
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.
– Check out Bring Back British Rail.
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