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Rail protests at 50 stations as fares rocket

Average train fares have increased dramatically since the start of the recession, almost three times faster than wages, new research revealed today.

Unions said the study, published to mark nationwide protests against high fares, showed how commuters and other passengers were suffering "transport poverty".

Rail unions, passenger groups and other campaigners will lobby travellers at 50 train stations across the UK today, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, warning that 2013 will see fare rises, ticket office closures, staff cuts and more delays and disruption to services.

Other protests are being held at stations including Euston, Paddington and King's Cross in London, Leicester, Nottingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter.

Fare rises will outpace wages and inflation again in 2013, with the cost of some fares set to soar by 10%, while pay is forecast to rise by an average of 2.5%, said unions.

TUC general secretary-designate Frances O'Grady said: "Train fares have massively outstripped wages and inflation, even during the recession. Train operating companies seem to have completely ignored the fact that real-term incomes and living standards have fallen and have ploughed ahead with eye-watering price hikes.

"Average fare increases have risen at nearly three times the rate of average wages since 2008.

"Today's protests should act as an urgent wake-up call to ministers. Our current privatised system, which is costing taxpayers a staggering £1.2 billion a year, may be a wonderful Christmas present for train companies but is a huge squeeze on the public purse and commuters."

Mick Whelan, leader of the train drivers' union Aslef, said: "This year's fare hike is all the more painful following George Osborne's announcement of deeper cuts and austerity last week, and threatens to plunge many thousands of passengers yet further into transport poverty.

"At a time of economic uncertainty the Government should be trying to help people get around, not restrict them."

Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union general secretary Bob Crow said: "With the West Coast fiasco still playing out, and with savage fare increases only a few weeks away, the campaign for renationalisation of Britain's railways is stepping up a gear.

"We are fighting to reverse the reductions in jobs and investment and to end the rip-off of privatisation and halt the tidal wave of cuts in the pipeline under the Government's McNulty plans."

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "Last week's family spending survey showed that transport is now, for the first time, the biggest item in families' weekly budgets.

"This is hardly surprising when you consider how much rail fares have increased since the recession. The Government seems determined to make a reality of Philip Hammond's statement that rail travel is now a rich man's toy."

Unite national rail officer Julia Long said: "Thanks to this Government, the new year promises to bring more misery to the country's commuters, as the network's private rail operators think nothing of hiking their fares.

"Once again, millions of ordinary people are being punished by this Government's abject failure to get to grips with a crisis that is squeezing household budgets to breaking point."

Rail Minister Norman Baker said: "RPI+1% is the same formula used by the previous Government for annual fare increases since 2004 - the only difference is we are now embarking on the biggest programme of rail investment since the 19th century.

"By way of comparison, we are electrifying over 850 miles of track compared to just nine miles in 13 years of Labour."

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