A protest has been launched by a transport union against the “persecution” of rail travellers as a new report said people on average earnings are paying a third of their salaries just to get to work.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said long distance commuters were spending over £9,000 a year in rail fares and station car parking charges.
The union held a protest at Peterborough, with further demonstrations planned in the coming weeks.
The union published a list of the most expensive season tickets to London, headed by Swindon at £8,200, up 93% since rail privatisation 20 years ago, Great Yarmouth (£7,668, up 56%), Peterborough (£7,296, up 87%) and Reading (£4,188, up 76%).
Commuters from Stamford, Rutland, Market Deeping, Bourne, Spalding and across the region travel to LOndon via Peterborough with many also having to add parking charges to their annual travel to work bill.
TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said: “It is an absolute disgrace the enormous burden that has been heaped on commuters’ shoulders since the railways were sold off 20 years ago. Those on average earnings are paying a third of their salaries just to get to work, the equivalent of funding a £200,000 mortgage every year.
It is time to stop the annual persecution of commuters who have no alternative to paying these prohibitive and punishing increases.TSSA leader Manuel Cortes
“Season tickets were meant to protected when the railways were sold off. But while commuters and their families have suffered a harsh squeeze on their household budgets , with annual tickets doubling in many cases since 1995, the fat controllers running the private rail firms have seen their own salaries rocketing ahead.”
He called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to announce a 12-month long rail fares freeze as part of an overall review of private rail franchises if he wins the general election in May.
“It is time to stop the annual persecution of commuters who have no alternative to paying these prohibitive and punishing increases. Recent figures from the ORR showed that passengers paid out £9 billion last year while the private rail firms made a net contribution of just £43 million to the industry. Labour must put to a stop to this racket.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, representing Network Rail and operators, said: “Once again the TSSA is being deliberately misleading by focusing on some of the most expensive fares while ignoring cheaper deals and the effects of inflation.
“Overall, the average price of a season ticket is less than £2,500, equivalent to around £5 a journey. For the decade to 2013 regulated fares, including season tickets, rose by above inflation as per the policy of successive governments to switch a greater share of rail costs from taxpayers to passengers.
“Passenger numbers have doubled in the last two decades, thanks to better services and discounting on unregulated fares, resulting in the amount of money operators pay back to government to reinvest in the railway increasing fivefold to £2 billion.”
The RDG said the average season ticket holder travels 9,600 miles a year, costing 25p a mile, adding that the distance between Great Yarmouth and London is 137 miles, which averages out at 12p a mile, while the distance between Peterborough and London is 83 miles, which averages out at 18p a mile. The Rail Delivery Group added that the TSSA was also “ignoring” the effects of inflation, which rose by 72% between 1994 and 2014.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are investing record amounts in our railways as part of our long-term economic plan and passenger fares have a crucial role to play in funding these improvements, which will bring more services, more seats and modern trains.
“However, we recognise passengers’ concerns about the cost of rail travel. That is why we have frozen regulated rail fares for the second year in a row.”
Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said: “David Cameron is presiding over a rip-off railway in Britain. He has failed to stand up for working people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and has allowed the train companies to hit passengers with massive fare rises of over 20% since 2010.
“Some season tickets have now risen by over 30% under this Government, forcing people to pay thousands of pounds more to commute to work on increasingly overcrowded trains. Out-of-touch ministers talk about ‘fair fares for comfortable commuting’, but this is a world away from the reality for millions of hard-up commuters.
“Labour would deliver a better deal for passengers and taxpayers by reforming the railways, simplifying the ticketing system and enforcing a strict cap on fares on every route. We will also give passengers a voice in how the railways are run and stop passengers getting fleeced at ticket machines by making it a legal right for passengers to be sold the cheapest available ticket for their journey.”