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Chris Grayling Blames Trade Unions for Rail Fare Increases, UK MPs 'Strike' Back

© AFP 2023 / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS Protestors hold placards as they demostrate against the annual rise in rail tickets, for travel on trains, outside King's Cross railway station in London on January 3, 2017
Protestors hold placards as they demostrate against the annual rise in rail tickets, for travel on trains, outside King's Cross railway station in London on January 3, 2017 - Sputnik International
Demonstrators outside Manchester Piccadilly station started their own #FirstDayBack campaign by handing out "Cut fares not staff" leaflets Wednesday morning over above-inflation fares rise of 3.1 percent, despite a 13-year low in punctuality.

UK transport secretary Chris Grayling blamed traded unions and railway workers on Wednesday for steep increase in ticket fares, drawing fierce criticism from protestors.

Fares rose well above the 2.6 percent average wage increase in 2018, forcing passengers to spend hundreds more on season tickets.

"I can't comprehend how the management continue to get these huge bonuses when the service is just so poor," one BT worker said. "Why are the bonuses not performance-based? Chris Grayling should be responsible."

"I'm definitely not happy with the rise. There's no justification really for it at the moment," Phillip Shields, 32, said. "They keep promising every year that they're going to improve services but it never seems to materialise. It's the same statements they repeat over and over again, every year."

Mr. Grayling's Remarks and Their Aftermath

Mr. Grayling defended his decisions on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Wednesday morning by blaming trade unions, stating that "unions demand — with threats of national strikes, but they don't get them — higher pay rises than anybody else."

"Typical pay rises are more than 3% and that's what drives the increases," Mr. Grayling said. "These are the same unions that fund that Labour party."

Mr. Grayling's comments prompted fresh calls to renationalise UK railways, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn supporting protestors near King's Cross station in London, calling the price hikes a "disgrace" and stating that the UK should instead "invest in our railways as a public investment".

"If we don't invest then people will have to suffer in their journeys, and we end up with more people using their cars and that's far more dangerous for our environment than rail travel," Mr. Corbyn added.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said that the "toxic combination" of mismanagement and profiteering from private companies has forced Brits to endure the nation's "rip-off railways".

Fares have risen almost 50 percent faster than inflation since privatisation to pay profits to foreign-owned rail companies, RMT research revealed. Open access train operators profited roughly £3.8bn from British railways out of £7.9bn in passenger revenues last year.

"Our passengers have been left paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out and unreliable services and that is a national disgrace," Mr. Cash said in a press release. "The only solution is to sweep this whole racket away and return our railways to public ownership."

Mr. Cash also called for Mr. Grayling's resignation, stating the Tory transport minister "should go, and he should go now."

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RMT national president Michelle Rodgers joined the Manchester Piccadilly protests, calling the fare increases "abysmal" and adding that people were "angry and disgusted about the fare increase."

"I've been around 20 years and I've never seen it as bad as in the last 12 months," she added.

Labour councillor for Adele Douglas picketed outside Manchester Piccadilly station with "Tory rail rip off" leaflets, stating that Britain's unreliable railway system was "destroying people's working lives".

"We don't accept this — it's too much money, too little in return and it's not fair," she added.

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