Rail firms paid over £1 billion to shareholders in last six years, says TUC

By agency reporter
January 3, 2019

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that private rail companies which are putting fares up by 3.1 per cent have paid out over £1 billion in dividends to shareholders in the last six years.

The TUC is concerned that these shareholder pay-outs are excessive, given the poor-quality service and high costs faced by workers commuting by rail.

TUC analysis finds that UK commuters spend up to five times as much on season tickets as their European equivalents.

Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to spend 13 per cent of their pay for season tickets (£393 a month).

By contrast, comparable commutes would cost a mere two per cent of the average salary in France, three per cent in Ireland and four per cent in Germany and Belgium.

Wages are set to grow by only 2.5 per cent in 2019, while season tickets will go up by 3.1 per cent. It will be the ninth time in the last 10 years that rail fares have risen by more than wages.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The most reliable thing about our railways is the cash that goes to private shareholders each year. But with the most expensive fares in Europe, that can’t be right. It’s rewarding failure and taking money away that should be invested in better services.

“It’s time to take the railways back into public hands. Every penny from every fare should go back into the railways. The number one priority should be running a world class railway service, not private profit.”

Mick Cash, General Secretary of the RMT union said: “The British fare-payer has been battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering by the private companies exploiting Britain's rip-off railways.

“Our passengers have been left paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed-out and unreliable services and that is a national disgrace. The only solution is to sweep this whole racket away and return our railways to public ownership.”

ASLEF General Secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “The train companies are telling passengers to pay more for a poorer service and that’s not a great offer, is it? Not for passengers – or for voters at the next election.

“Commuters complain about persistent delays and cancellations, and the consumer group Which? says the privatised train operators are one of this country’s least trusted groups – beaten to bottom place only by second-hand car dealers.

“Wages aren’t keeping pace with inflation and yet the train companies, and their chum the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, are pushing up prices yet again. What a way to run the railway!”

 Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA,  said: “Millions of commuters will be staggered and furious that fares are rising yet again while privateers stuff shareholders pockets with cash.

“This situation is untenable, and the fact is only bringing the railways back into public hands will end the misery for so many each day. Britain and the British public deserve so much better than failing Chris Grayling and this useless Tory government.”

Unite national officer for the rail industry, Harish Patel, said: “Given last year’s rail timetable chaos, presided over by the hapless transport secretary Chris Grayling, there should be no rail fare increases for hard-pressed travellers in 2019 – fares should have been frozen. The 3.1 per cent rise is an insult.

“As usual, the real ‘winners’ are the greedy shareholders of the privatised rail companies that have gobbled up more than £1 billion in ill-gotten dividends in the last six years – money that could have gone towards freezing fares and boosting rail investment.

“Every day the case for the public ownership of the rail industry grows stronger, especially after the woeful performance of 2018.”

* Trades Union Congress https://www.tuc.org.uk/

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