The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says £1.2bn has been taken nationally in dividends by rail shareholders in the last half a decade despite rail firms receiving major subsidies from taxpayers.
The Great Train Robbery in 1963 was one of the biggest thefts in UK history. The cash stolen was worth £53m in today’s money, making the figures for Yorkshire, revealed today, equivalent to five heists.
TUC Yorkshire & the Humber Regional Secretary Bill Adams said: “It’s appalling that shareholders are taking millions of pounds out of Yorkshire rail routes. Especially while commuters are stuck with over-crowded and unreliable trains.
“This modern-day train robbery is working against the needs of our region. The funds should be invested to make it easier and cheaper to travel, instead of lining shareholder pockets.
“We deserve better. Let’s use our votes to get public railway that works for all, not private profit.”
It comes after Network Rail data revealed that only 65 per cent of trains arrived at their scheduled station stops within one minute of the timetable in the past 12 months and that fares were set to increase next year.
Rail tickets will increase by an average of 2.7 per cent on January 2 and the increase will affect around 45 per cent of services.
Some long-distance commuters will see the annual cost of getting to work increase by more than £100.
Commenting on the dividends, the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the industry, argued that train companies only make profits if they succeed in meeting the terms of their franchises with government, and that since privatisation annual journey growth has been 3.73 per cent compared to 0.77 per cent before.
Over the same period, the cost to taxpayers of running the railway has fallen by three-quarters, the spokesman added.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “Private sector investment in the railway is at a record high with billions of pounds being spent to replace half the nation’s trains new for old by 2025.
“There is more to do but the railway has improved significantly since franchising was introduced with passengers growing at five times the rate compared to under British Rail.
“This is generating more money to reduce costs for taxpayers, with operators paying £2.4bn back to government over the last five years to enable investment in a better railway.”
Northern is one of the main operaters in the region but has increasingly come under fire for late and cancelled services.
A spokesman said: “It’s on record the Northern franchise has faced several material and unprecedented challenges in the past couple of years, outside the direct control of Northern.
“These include network capacity to handle the timetable, late delivery of new trains and the damage caused by strike action contributing to lower than expected economic growth.
“These have had a significant effect on the revenue expected in our original franchise business plan agreed with government back in 2015.”