New Year starts with protests against Tory government's rail fare rises
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Protests are to be held outside UK train stations against the annual increase in rail fares as new research suggests they have risen twice as fast as wages in the past 10 years.
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The biggest demonstration will be outside London's King's Cross station, with rail workers and campaigners joining forces to argue that staffing, not fares, should increase.
A study by the TUC indicated that some UK commuters spend more than seven times as much on season tickets as their European equivalents.
The union organisation said today's rail fare rises of up to 2.7% cannot be justified when the private rail companies have paid out more than £1.2 billion in dividends to shareholders in the last five years.
In the decade since 2009, fares for commuters have risen by 46%, but the average weekly wage has only risen 23%, said the TUC.
Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to fork out 16% of their pay for season tickets (£511 a month), but comparable commutes would cost 2% of the average salary in France, and 4% in Germany and Belgium, said the TUC.
General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Working people have had enough of over-crowded and unreliable services.
"The number one priority should be running a world-class railway service, not subsidising shareholders.
"No more excuses - the Government must end the failed privatisation and put trains back in public ownership. This would free up money for much-needed upgrades and lower ticket prices for working people."
Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "Millions of commuters are being dealt a slap in the face by inflation-busting fare rises while their own wages stagnate.
"It's sadly just what we've come to expect from this Tory government which backs rail bosses over staff and passengers every time.
"Only public ownership of the railways can address the sky-high prices and poor services endured by passengers.
"Instead of investing in our railways, this Government is more interested in undermining transport workforce by slashing workers' rights across public transport."
Unite national officer for the rail industry, Harish Patel said: "Every year, as regular as clockwork, rail travellers receive the post-Christmas slap in the face with daylight robbery rail fare increases.
"If Boris Johnson's newly-minted affection for working people means anything at all, he would be taking the rip-off privately owned rail companies by the scruff of the neck and bringing them back into public ownership in the name of his so-called 'People's government'."
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