The Labour Party in Blackpool: Rail fares 'may be increased by 142%'

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The Independent Online
Rail fares will rise by at least 142 per cent if the Government presses on with plans to break up and privatise the railway network, Jimmy Knapp, general secretary of the RMT rail and sea union, said yesterday.

Mr Knapp told the conference that the figure had been calculated by British Rail and Department of Transport officials as the price increase needed to meet the charges that would be imposed on private operators by the track authority. 'Rail privatisation will be this government's poll tax,' Mr Knapp said as the conference backed calls by transport union leaders to oppose the Government's proposals.

John Prescott, the party's transport spokesman, was given a standing ovation after promising in an impassioned speech to lead the fight in Parliament against privatisation.

The Government's plans were motivated by ideological dogma and 'malice' against public services, Mr Prescott said. He called for more investment to create a safe and efficient public transport system. 'It isn't an impossible dream. It's common in Europe and we want the same here.'

Derrick Fullick, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, warned of possible industrial action. Calling for a rail safety code to which all operators would have to adhere, he said the Government's White Paper on privatisation made no reference to increased investment for safety or other improvements.

'That's why we need the safety code,' he said. 'That's why Aslef says if trains are unsafe, we won't run them. Industrial action cannot be ruled out.'

Aslef would not stand by while the system was raped and its assets pillaged, Mr Fullick said. 'The loadsamoney men without conscience will put my members and your family at risk while they mainline the profits and shove safety into the sidings.'