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Commuters angry at latest rail fare rises

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Back in August 1963, the Great Train Robbery appalled Britain, as a gang of notorious villains including Ronnie Biggs stole £2.6 million from a mail train. The 50th anniversary of the crime saw a different kind of rail heist as private operators announced their latest price hikes.

Commuters will have to find an extra 4.3 percent for tickets in January. Over the last five years, that amounts to a rise of 40 percent in the cost of rail travel in the UK. Meanwhile UK wages are falling at one of the fastest rates in Europe, with a drop of 5.5 percent since 2010. Understandably those who have to use the railways to get to work, and thus pay the highest peak-time fares, are incensed.

Privatisation of the railways was intended to establish competition, with a subsequent reduction in prices. Instead, each company was granted an effective monopoly over its routes and continues to raise prices on journeys where the users have no option but to take the train. Meanwhile private operators are benefiting from government subsidies to a greater extent even than the much-maligned former nationalised operator British Rail.

Surveys among commuters suggest that two-thirds would favour a return to national ownership. It's an idea that has alarmed Labour in the past, although there are some MPs on the Opposition benches who argue that renationalisation makes sense and is a potential vote-winner.

In the meantime, with wages stagnant and the economy clawing its way slowly out of recession, those who have to travel into work will find a substantial chunk of their income going into the pockets of train operators' shareholders.

One regular commuter, Phil Bickley, who pays £4,512 for an annual season ticket into London, told The Guardian: "They really don't care. It's such a money-driven business. I get quite bitter about it. The rail network shouldn't be a privatised money-making thing, it should be there to serve the public."

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