Fully Trained and skilled Railway staff have proved to be valuable asset during the privatisation years, and with market forces at work staff pay has risen over the years but so has productivity.
Market forces have driven up pay which in itself I do not think is a bad thing. Plenty of staff work hard and are entitled to a decent wage and pay used to be low, but the picture for productivity per staff member tells a different story.
For frieght companies productivity HAS risen due to both longer trains and greater staff flexibility with respect to roles. Therefore unit costs have been kept down at the same time as staff pay has risen. By this measure frieght staffs' pay increases are affordable.
Wish it was the same with the passenger railway, but unfortunately it is not. Trains have got shorter and frequences increased and a huge number of extra staff are employed doing things that previously did not need doing (putting together franchise bids, checking legal agreements, arguing over delay compensation). The number of staff needed to move one passenger 1 mile has stayed stubonly high. This means that increasing passenger numbers, which ought to be a good thing for the economics of running a railway often lead to more not less subsidy requirement.
Having a year on year increase in customers and revenue would lead to lower unit costs in the bus or airline industry, but somehow the railway manages to squander a customer growth rate that would be the envy of any other industry.