Anger over train overcrowding as fares set to increase 3.4% through 2018

Rail fares are rising again in 2018, at an average rate of 3.4%. This is the largest price hike in years, and it came into effect on January 2. Though some rail companies are staggering the price rise, commuters are already starting to feel the impact as ticket prices go up. However, commuters are speaking out about the unsatisfactory standards private rail companies demonstrate.

Labour members campaigning at Scarborough station against the 2018 rise in rail fares

Labour members campaigning at Scarborough station against the 2018 rise in rail fares

Overcrowded trains, delays and high ticket prices are making travel a misery for many people. The constituencies of Scarborough and Whitby are badly affected by these problems with the trains, because of our distance from major towns and cities and our limited road network. Many residents rely on the railways for work or for personal travel, despite the high costs and poor service, while others have been priced out of using the trains entirely.

Many trains leaving Scarborough fail to provide enough carriages, or overbook seats, leading to crowding of carriages. It is common for passengers to pay to reserve seats, but be unable to use them because the train is so full. Despite having paid a high price for a ticket, there is no guarantee you will have a comfortable journey – or get to your destination on time. Delays are very common, while many trains and the stations they serve are in need of renovation. Though private companies often make a significant profit from our railways, they are offering an increasingly subpar service to their customers.

“The service has not improved over the years, and in fact has got worse,” notes Labour Councillor Eric Broadbent. “I travelled from Scarborough to Leeds last Saturday and at Scarborough Station passengers waiting to board were all herded on to the front three carriages as the doors would not unlock on the rear three carriages. You can imagine the crush that happened all the way to Leeds, and the arguments that ensued.”

The Labour Party’s national policy is to nationalise the railways again, bringing control of the rail network back into public ownership and allowing us to put the profits of the rail service back into its infrastructure. After costs, any surplus profits would be put back into the treasury to be spent on our public services. The Scarborough and Whitby CLP wholeheartedly backs this policy, and believes our town could benefit greatly from a renationalised rail network that better serves local residents, ends the overcrowding, and makes train travel affordable again.

It is now cheaper to drive than to take the train, and the hikes to rail prices will make that price gap wider. This is bad news for our local environment, with more cars on the road than ever before – contributing to higher pollution levels. Driving hasn’t become any cheaper in recent years, with petrol prices rising and the costs of car ownership higher than ever before. However, rail fares have risen so steeply that driving may actually be the more economical choice. For those who cannot drive or do not have access to a car, the cost of a train ticket is becoming increasingly prohibitive.

It also restricts those looking for jobs, or who work away from the local area. Scarborough was recently identified as the ‘low pay capital’ of the UK, with a large number of local jobs paying well under the national living wage. For those who want higher paying work or are seeking work in specialist fields, there is often a need to travel to nearby cities like York, Hull and Leeds. Some may even commute further afield, for example travelling to London or Glasgow. However, the cost of travelling to and from these places each day can often amount to several hundred pounds per week, which limits the amount a person can earn.

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Labour Party calls for Real Living Wage among Scarborough and Whitby employers

Residents in Scarborough and Whitby could soon find out which local employers
pay the Real Living Wage. Local companies which already pay the Real Living Wage are being invited to add their names to a growing database of companies who have committed to pay the Living Wage. Pressure is being placed on Scarborough Borough Council to pay its own employees the living wage, although the council has opted to ‘wait for more information’ before it makes its final decision on the matter.

Residents in Scarborough and Whitby can find out which local employers pay the Real Living Wage by looking here

The council says it is waiting for a decision from the unions on whether to accept the pay rise, before it comes to a final decision. “I do think if this council is going to take any decision that will have a financial impact going forward, then we should wait until we have all that information on the table,” notes Sandra Turner, Cabinet Member for Communities.

A recent study by the Social Market Foundation named Scarborough the country’s low pay capital. Scarborough & Whitby Constituency Labour Party wants to see Scarborough Council setting an example by taking a lead. Paying people better could also help maintain the area’s reputation as one of the UK’s top tourist destinations.

Nationally, The Labour Party has pledged to raise the minimum wage to a genuine
Living Wage, as determined by the Living Wage Foundation. This would affect all workers over the age of 18. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has suggested he would like the policy extended in future, to ensure that 16-18 year olds in work also get a fair living wage.

The database of Real Living Wage employers is something that could help defeat Scarborough’s negative publicity, while giving members of the workforce more money to spend with local traders and suppliers. Labour will also create a nationwide network of regional trade champions with a National Investment Bank, with regional development banks dedicated to supporting inclusive growth in our communities.

Online, a petition to demand that Scarborough Borough Council pay the Real Living Wage has attracted 135 signatures so far. Residents have also been signing the petition at action days outside the Town Hall, including protests held on the 8th January ahead of the council’s recent decision on whether to introduce the Living Wage to the Borough.

“The Council is part of the low wage problem when it could and should be helping to solve it,” said Labour councillor Steve Siddons. “Labour recommended a Living Wage Policy of paying Council staff the ‘real’ Living Wage and are encouraging other employers in the Borough to do the same.”

Are you paid more or less than the £8.75/hr Real Living Wage? Vote here or here in the next few days.

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