Union warns of rail fare hikes after cuts

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Rail passengers face fare increases of up to 10% in January and further huge hikes in the coming years because of cuts in subsidies given to train operators which will be announced this week, a leading union warned today.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said it had been briefed by Whitehall sources that the annual fares cap formula, which would have limited increases to under 6% in the new year, will be suspended.

The move will be announced on Wednesday by Chancellor George Osborne as part of the Government's cuts in public spending, the union claimed.

Under the current formula, annual fares increases are limited to the July RPI inflation figure, which was 4.8%, plus 1%.

But because of big cuts in the Government subsidies given to the private train companies, the formula will not apply this year, with passengers being asked to pay more, the union warned.

General secretary Gerry Doherty said: "Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is taking a big gamble by allowing the private train companies to increase fares by up to 10% in January.

"He will be committing political suicide if he scraps the fares price cap altogether next year and allows the rail companies the freedom to charge what they like, when they like.

"The commuters of the South East who put the coalition into power in May will throw them straight out again in 2015 if they are faced with year-on-year increases of 10%.

"We already have the highest rail fares in Europe and the most expensive railway, which taxpayers subsidise to the tune of £5 billion a year.

"Rather than pricing hard working families off the railways ministers should be looking at running a publicly owned, affordable railway like they do in France, Germany, Spain and Italy."

The TSSA said it expected the Government to say on Wednesday that subsidies to train operating companies, now running at over £800 million a year, will be cut by a third over the next four years.

Details of the exact impact on fares will be left to each company to announce next month in a bid to defuse passenger anger over the increases, the union claimed.