Rail operators 'mugging passengers'
UKPA: 8th May 2010
Train operators have been accused of "mugging" passengers by re-designating off-peak services to peak, to increase fares.
Union boss Bob Crow, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), claimed Britain's private rail operators were "mugging passengers to pump up their profits".
His comments came as it emerged train companies were rescheduling some off-peak services to peak and sometimes doubling or tripling prices.
But train operators defended the move saying it was "no surprise" the left-wing union boss had commented but in fact only a very small number of services and passengers were affected.
Mr Crow said: "Here's the latest evidence that the train operators are using rail privatisation as a licence to print money while the politicians sit back and let them get on with it. It's a scandal that not only are the private train companies allowed to exploit passengers on a daily basis but they also continue to soak up tens of millions in taxpayer subsidies."
A survey by the BBC said since January more than 180 trains a week have been rescheduled as "peak-time". The survey said as a result some fares, such as the 0950 Telford to London, have tripled from £45 to £158 for a return ticket, according to the BBC.
Another example is the 0915 from London Euston to Manchester, returning at 0855 the next day, which used to cost £66. Now that Virgin has extended its peak hours, the same ticket costs £262, the BBC says.
Virgin Trains, which operates the West Coast main line with services between London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, said only around 15 out of its 350 daily trains services had been affected by the peak price changes. A spokesman for Virgin said: "That is no surprise from Bob. These changes were notified back in November and implemented in January.
"There is not enough capacity on the railways so we have to have different pricings on busy trains. We use cheaper prices on less busy trains to encourage people to use less busy trains otherwise peak trains would be packed." Virgin also points out, on peak services passengers can save money by buying in advance and it operates "split-ticketing" so tickets for a return journey can be bought off-peak.
South West Trains (SWT), which runs 1,700 daily routes out of London Waterloo, said only 114 train services had been affected and this only applied to discounted "Super Off-peak" tickets, and passengers can still travel on these 114 trains using off-peak tickets. A spokeswoman for the firm said: "From the fares change in January 2010, they made changes to the times that the return portion of the South West Trains Super Off-Peak Day Return and Super Off-Peak Day Travelcards could be used.