Britain’s public transport is diabolical — it’s the most expensive in Europe, faces constant delays, and is subject to the legalised mafia — otherwise known as transport unions.
It’s unsurprising that the Trade Union Congress revealed today that rail fares rocketed by 25% over the last five years and that ticket prices are now rising three times faster than wages.
To put this into perspective, the average salary for Britons may have risen by 9% from 2010 to 2015, but most of this is spent on getting to and from work.
“Rail fares have rocketed over the last five years leaving many commuters seriously out of pocket,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady in a statement.
“If ministers really want to help hard-pressed commuters they need to return services to the public sector. This is a fair, more sustainable option and it would allow much bigger savings to be passed on to passengers. Introducing an arbitrary cap on fares is simply passing the bill on to taxpayers. The government wants the public to subsidise train companies’ profits and bear the cost of the fares cap.”
The most expensive in Europe
While the rise in train tickets has soared over the last five years, the government said it plans to cap annual increases in regulated rail fares at the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation during its four year period in parliament.
But this isn’t as great as it sounds.
The capping of train ticket prices will hit the taxpayer — it will cost £700 million over the next five years. This figure was confirmed by the government’s Department for Transport. On top of that, unless you have a government job, it’s not a given that your salary would be bumped up with the rise in inflation.
In January, the TUC and campaign group Action for Rail (AFR) revealed just how badly off Britons are when it comes to getting to and from work.
According to the TUC and AFR, we spend a greater proportion of our salaries on travel costs compared to the rest of Europe. We’re working more just to pay for the transport to our jobs and back home again.
In France, people spend around 12% of their salary on rail tickets, 9% in Germany, and only 6% in Spain and Italy. In Britain, we spend a huge 17%.
Using an example of those commuting from outside capital cities into the job-dense hub, this is how expensive it is:
Train delays are so bad in Britain that even the government has taken to fining companies for the inconvenience.
For example, Network Rail said “t
he number of trains that arrive on time has risen dramatically since we took over the running of Britain’s railway in October 2002.“
However, on August 10, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) regulator fined UK train infrastructure operator
Network Rail £2 million ($US3.1 million) over train delays and cancellations during the 2014 and 2015 year.
Around 10% of the time, trains are delayed or cancelled. Network Rail controls 20,000 miles of track and 2,500 stations across Britain. It’s not just Londoners that are affected.
ORR said Network Rail’s performance on Southern, on Govia Thameslink (GTR) and in Scotland was “below expectations and missed punctuality targets.” Network Rail apologised to passengers at the time and said it invested more than £11 million ($US17.2 million) to “improve performance for Southern and Thameslink passengers” since the start of 2015. So hooray — more fare increases for Britons.
It was fined £53 million ($US83.1 million) the year before for delays as well. It also missed its punctuality targets the year. You get the picture.
Network Rail cited a European Commission report, which looks at the period 2000-2011, saying that UK delays are still less than those in Europe.
However, as the Financial Times succinctly pointed out earlier this year, punctuality figures are not directly comparable to the rest of Europe, This is due to how Network Rail manages the network and train lines, does not pay dividends and takes government subsidies. It also siphons in data from over 20 rail franchises. So it’s actually hard to compare the UK with Europe on the punctuality front on a like-for-like basis.
Considering this is what Britons are paying for out of every pound they spend on rail tickets, you’d think the service would have improved over the years.
At the mercy of the unions
Londoners are used to having an underground strike called at the drop of a hat. It’s pretty easy for unions to strike in the UK because you only need a majority of those balloted to vote for a strike before it can go ahead.
For example, if only 10 people from a multi-thousand strong union ballotted, and 6 of those people voted for a strike — it can go ahead. So it’s pretty simple and quick to call upon industrial action.
In fact, next week Britain’s capital is braced for two 24-hour strikes on 25 and 27 August.
The strikes subject Londoners to this on a regular basis:
And those thinking they can escape the sheer hell by going on buses are subjected to this:
But it’s not just Londoners — the rest of the UK are at the mercy of the unions too.
In May this year, Britain nearly came to a national standstill after Network Rail threatened to enact the first country-wide strike in almost two decades, demanding higher pay. Union RMT also planned to strike at exactly the same time, just to cripple Britons even more.
However, the only thing for certain in life is death and taxes — and if you’re a Briton, it’s an annual rise in train fares and transport strikes.
Welcome to the UK.