RAIL workers led protests outside train stations in the North East yesterday as proposals for a 6.2% rise in fares were confirmed.
Campaigners gathered outside Newcastle’s Central Station and Berwick station in Northumberland yesterday to rally commuters into taking a stand against the increases in rail fares branded as “horrific” by transport union members.
The protests came as the Office for National Statistic announced the greater-than-expected rise in inflation to 3.2%, which will lead to a 6.2% increase in rail fares by using the Government formula of inflation plus 3%.
Micky Thompson, regional organiser at the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), said: “It’s going to hit people harder in the pockets so the travelling public need to wake up and see what’s going on.
“The union’s position is that whilst we all want a modern, reliable and punctual railway that addresses such issues as overcrowding, we do not expect the travelling public or the loss of railway employees’ jobs to pay for these efficiency savings.
“The Government should instead concentrate its efforts upon looking at the profit margins that these companies make and as to why they are not reinvesting the profits back into the railway.”
Mr Thompson was joined by fellow RMT members as they staged the protest throughout the morning commuter rush-hour where they spent time talking to rail passengers and handing out leaflets urging them to take action against rising fares and cuts to jobs and services.
Last night pressure was mounting on Chancellor George Osborne to rethink the policy that allows train operators to increase regulated fares.
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the rises were “untenable” because fares will rise three times faster than salaries next year, which the campaign claimed will damage any economic recovery.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle criticised the fare rises, saying: “David Cameron’s decision to side with the powerful private train operators against commuters and passengers shows he is desperately out of touch with the cost-of-living crisis facing many hard-working families.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “Inflation has halved since its peak in September but any increase is disappointing.
“The Government knows how tough things are for families at the moment and that is why we have reduced income tax and frozen both council tax and fuel duty.”