Union slams 'ludicrous' rail deal
Press Association: December 8, 2007
Rail union leaders have launched a fresh attack on the level of train fares after discovering it is cheaper to fly to the Caribbean and back than a return trip by rail from London to Scotland.
The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union attacked the "ludicrous" franchise deal under which National Express will take over the running of services on the East Coast mainline from GNER on Sunday.
Increases of more than 2% above inflation have been built into unregulated fares for the next eight years, under which the Treasury hopes National Express will pay more than £1.4 billion in premiums, said the union.
The RMT said it would resist any attempt to make its members pay for the franchise deal with jobs, pay or conditions.
General secretary Bob Crow said: "GNER's collapse under Sea Containers jeopardised jobs and services on one of our key spinal railways, but the Government is refusing to learn the lesson that franchising won't deliver the railway we need.
"The environment is crying out for a rail network that is affordable and encourages people out of their cars and on to trains, but the new East Coast franchise will deliver the opposite.
"An open standard return to Inverness from London King's Cross could already cost you £298, and you could fly out to Antigua for £2 less, even including fuel and passenger duty. Add eight years' worth of inflation-busting increases on to that and the Caribbean will be even cheaper by comparison."
Meanwhile, the new 2008 winter rail timetable starts on Sunday and will see a record 20,000 passenger services running on Britain's railway every weekday.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said the timetable reflected the additional investment by the rail industry into Britain's rail network and the ever-growing popularity of rail travel.
Britain has been Europe's fastest growing railway over the past 10 years and by the end of this year ATOC expects more than a billion passengers to have travelled by train.