Rail claim 'an insult to commuters'

Rail union leaders have voiced increasing anger over controversial comments by a government minister about how "comfortable" train travel is.

Unions have questioned a minister's claims about the comfort of rail travel
Unions have questioned a minister's claims about the comfort of rail travel

Transport minister Claire Perry responded to news that passengers will face another above inflation fare rise in the new year by saying that passengers should realise they are paying fair fares for a comfortable commute.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef condemned the comments as "o ut of touch, surreal, inappropriate, incompetent, negligent and naive", adding: " Passengers are fed up with being forced to pay in excess of £5,000 a year to get to work, without the guarantee of a proper seat or a working toilet.

"Instead of running more trains, the privatised train operators, encouraged by Ms Perry, want to run fewer trains, with fewer carriages, fewer seats and fewer toilets. They are now suggesting taking out seats and removing toilets so they can pack passengers in like sardines."

Aslef said official figures showed that more than 100,000 passengers travelling by train into London during the rush hour have to stand.

Mr Whelan added: "There is legislation in place to protect animals when they are transported by train but no legislation to protect human beings.

"There is no long-term strategy, no long-term planning, and no long-term thinking, among the privatised train operating companies. They are only in business to make a quick buck."

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "Claire Perry should spend a week jammed in like a piece of meat on the kind of rail services that are the daily reality for millions of passengers forced to pay through the nose for the privilege of making fat profits for the private train companies.

"Claire Perry should also have the guts take her ludicrous 'fair fares for a comfortable commute' message out into the stations and onto the platforms and see how long it takes before she is acquainted with the facts of life here in the real world."

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: " This is an insult to millions of commuters who have to pay as much as £5,000 a year to get to work.

"Miss Perry, on the other hand, has free weekly travel to and from the Commons, paid for by us taxpayers. Like the Bourbons telling the French to eat cake, the Tories are out of touch with the every day lives of their constituents."