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  • Shareholders took £1.2 billion from tax-payer subsidised railways in the last five years 

  • The shareholder spoils from failed privatisation amount to the same as the Great Train Robbery loot every three months, says TUC 

TUC analysis published today (Sunday) reveals that the £1.2 billion in dividends taken by rail shareholders in the last five years is equivalent to the loot from 23 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. 

In the last 5 years, the average shareholder dividends paid out by rail firms have matched that amount every 3 months. 

The payments to shareholders are being made despite rail firms receiving major subsidies from taxpayers. Fullfact.org 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 commuters have risen by 46%. But the average weekly wage has only risen 23%. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“If you thought the Great Train Robbery was audacious, it’s peanuts compared to the Great Privatisation Scam.  

“Rail shareholders take the same amount the robbers took every three months. The rail firms take billions of pounds from taxpayers too. But working people must still commute on over-crowded and unreliable services.  

“We can’t go on being fleeced like this. Let’s use our votes to fix the railways and put them back in public hands.”  

Editors note

- 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 (https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator). 

  • £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. 

- 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 form 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. 

- Railway industry subsidies: The website Fullfact.org 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: https://fullfact.org/economy/government-funding-rail-industry-bbcqt/ 

- 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 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. 

Contacts: 

Tim Nichols 
tnichols@tuc.org.uk 
020 7467 1388 
07808 761844 

TUC press office 
media@tuc.org.uk  
020 7467 1248