Passengers speak out against the rising cost of commuting by train
FED-UP commuters at Temple Meads station took part in a nationwide campaign against increases in rail fares yesterday.
The protesters, who are angry at a 4.2 per cent increase in the cost of tickets on routes between London and Bristol, urged fellow travellers to sign a petition and to contact their MPs to air their grievances.
A new alliance representing passenger groups and environmental campaigners was out in Bristol yesterday morning.
The alliance – made up of Together for Transport, the TSSA Union, SHIFT, Alliance for Jobs and Climate, Climate Rush, and Bring Back British Rail – organised the protest.
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The group wants to see rail fares reduced to an affordable level, public ownership of the railways and cuts to carbon emissions through more rail travel.
Leaflets were being handed out asking passengers to take action by tweeting their complaints about fare rises. They are also are being asked to email their MP to complain.
Rob Jenks from Together for Transport said: "At a time of a shaky economy and low or non-existent pay rises, many people are struggling to meet the demands of increased living costs.
"The last thing rail passengers want is to be stung by fare increases that only serve to enhance private sector profits and allow the government to cut rail subsidy. "
He added: "We know from research that a publicly owned and accountable railway would mean substantial cuts in fares as private sector profit and complex structural costs would be removed.
"Reduced fares would also encourage even more use of the railway system – already at record levels – as people leave behind their cars and decide against flying to choose the train."
Transport minister Norman Baker admitted the situation was not ideal. He said 40 per cent of fares were regulated in a long-standing policy that had existed under successive governments.
Mr Baker added: "The balance of regulation and which fares are regulated is part of the fares and ticketing review we are now engaged upon. It's not ideal. There are over 100,000 rail tickets and different prices each year to deal with. It's a hugely complicated issue.
"So it's important we try to get the best value for the passenger, the best value for the taxpayer and the simplest, most transparent system we can, given the need to ensure rail companies can price appropriately to attract people on to off-peak trains which might otherwise be running empty."
The Association of Train Operating Companies said it recognised nobody liked paying more for their journey. But it added that railway funding could only come from taxpayers or from passengers "and the Government's policy remains that a bigger share must come from people who use the train".