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• Shareholder spoils in the North West amount to the same as nine Great Train Robberies in last 5 years, according to TUC analysis

TUC analysis published today (Monday) reveals that the £471 million taken over the last five by shareholders of rail franchises operating in the North West years is equivalent to the loot from nine Great Train Robberies.

The Great Train Robbery in 1963 was one of the biggest thefts in UK history. The cash stolen was worth £53 million in today’s money.

Nationally, £1.2 billion has been taken in dividends by rail shareholders in the last five years. This is equivalent to 23 Great Train Robberies – or one Great Train Robbery every 3 months.

The payments to shareholders are being made despite rail firms receiving major subsidies from taxpayers. have calculated that the privatised rail industry benefits from around £5 billion of government support each year.

The TUC says that working people who rely on trains to get to work are getting a raw deal. In the decade since 2009, fares for UK commuters have risen at twice the speed of wages.

TUC Regional Secretary for the North West Jay McKenna said:

“It’s appalling that shareholders are taking millions of pounds out of the North West’s rail routes. Especially while commuters are stuck with over-crowded and unreliable trains.

“This modern-day train robbery is working against the needs of people across our region. Instead of lining shareholders pockets, the money should invested into services, making it easier and cheaper to travel.

“If you’re travelling around on a train in the North West today, you’re likely to be paying more, whilst you’re paid less. Can you honestly say you’re getting value for money?

“We deserve better. Let’s use our votes to get public railways that work for all, not private profit.”

Editors note

Notes to editors:

- TUC analysis:

  • The TUC took the figures train operator dividends from the Office of Rail and Road. Table 2.14 of its report UK rail industry financial information 2017-18 (30 January 2019) states that the total dividends paid out by franchised train operators in the five years 2013/14 to 2017/18 was £1,213 million.
  • The Great Train Robbers stole £2.6 million in 1963. Using the Bank of England’s online inflation calculator, this equates to £53.5 million in 2018 prices (
  • £1,213 million is divided by £53.5 million to calculate how many Great Train Robbery loots the dividends paid from 2013/14 to 2017/18 are equivalent to. The result is 23 (rounded to the nearest whole number).
  • There are 60 months in 5 years. Dividing 60 by 23 gives a result of the equivalent amount of the Great Train Robbery every 2.6 months. We have rounded to 3 months for the release.
  • For franchises with operations in the North West, £471m in dividends divided by £53.5m is 8.8, which is round to 9 for the release.

- North West train operator dividends over the past 5 years

Rail firm

Dividends over 2013/14 – 2017/18 (£million)



East Midlands


West Coast








Source: ORR

- Fare increases in decade since 2009: Commuter rail fares increased by 45.7% from 2009 to 2019 was. Around half of all fares are regulated, and include season tickets on most commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys and anytime tickets around major cities.  The TUC uses the change to regulated rail fares as the best guide to commuter fares. The increase of 45.7% is the compound increase resulting from annual increases of 8% (2010), 7.1% (2011), 4.8% (2012), 4.2% (2013), 3.3% (2014), 2.1% (2015), 0.3% (2016), 2.8% (2017), 3.1% (2018), 2.9% (2019).

- Wage increases in decade since 2009: ONS data shows that average total weekly pay was £435 in 2009. The OBR estimates it will be £536 in 2019, based on the ONS outturn figure of £520 for 2018. The increase from 2009 to 2019 is 23%. Figures are nominal to allow direct comparison with rail fare rises. NW Wage figures can be seen here

- Railway industry subsidies: The website published an assessment of the government support given to privatised rail firms in 2018. They concluded that it is around three times the level received by publicly owned British Rail in the 1980s, and it amounts to around £5 billion annually. Full information is here:

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.6 million working people nationally and more than 1 million working people in the Midlands who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


Jay McKenna
07788 414578

TUC press office
020 7467 1248

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