Train fare increase to spark London King's Cross protest as staff lament 'post-Christmas slap in the face'

Ellena Cruse
Protesters are set to campaign outside King's Cross over rail fare prices: PA Wire/PA Images

Protests against a hike in rail fares will take place this morning after new research suggests they have risen twice as fast as wages in the past 10 years.

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.

The action follows the end of 27 days of strikes by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on South Western Railway over the bitter guards on trains dispute, which caused travel misery for passengers throughout December.

An amended timetable will still be in place on Thursday and Friday, even though the guards have returned to work.

Average increase in rail fares since 2010 (Press Association Images)

A study by the Trades Union Congress (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 per cent 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 per cent, but the average weekly wage has only risen 23 per cent, said the TUC.

Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to fork out 16 per cent of their pay for season tickets (£511 a month), but comparable commutes would cost 2 per cent of the average salary in France, and 4 per cent in Germany and Belgium, said the TUC.

Rail passengers face 'another decade of misery' as fares are hiked by an average of 2.7 per cent according to a campaign group. (PA Wire/PA Images)

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 general secretary Manuel Cortes added: “Millions of commuters are being dealt a slap in the face by inflation-busting fare rises while their own wages stagnate.

Protesters will demonstrate against the annual post-Christmas hike in fares outside King's Cross Station (PA Wire/PA Images)

“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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Train passengers face 'another decade of misery' in fare rises