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Return to work marred by delays and fare hikes for rail commuters

Published 04/01/2016

The Government has been accused of profiting from rail commuters
The Government has been accused of profiting from rail commuters

Rail commuters were hit by a double blow on the first working day of the year with major delays combined with the annual fares hike.

South West Trains (SWT), Southeastern and Arriva Trains Wales were among the firms whose services suffered major disruption.

A number of SWT trains were cancelled, with services not expected to return to normal until late morning.

"A problem at the depot near Guildford means that some trains to and from London Waterloo via Wimbledon are being cancelled, as the trains are unable to leave the depot to begin services," National Rail Enquiries stated.

A broken down train at Twickenham created further delays.

Disrupted commuters took to social media to express their anger that this happened on the first working day since fares rose by an average of 1.1% across Britain.

Paddy Hyslop wrote on Twitter: "1st day back, 1st delay, 1st broken down train. Really enjoying my more expensive commute @SW_Trains."

Another delayed passenger, Rhianna Baystead, joked: "Good to see @SW_Trains are back in my life with a bang! Delays, cancellations and a fare increase #HappyNewYear."

A Twitter user named Sami posted: " So my fares have risen, but the train is still late. I'll probably be dead before @SW_Trains do anything about it. Useless thieves."

There were also major delays for Southeastern passengers travelling from Hastings towards Tunbridge Wells due to signalling problems, while the Gatwick Express was reduced to a half hourly service because of a separate signalling defect.

Services across Wales were halted because of a strike by Arriva Trains Wales drivers in a row over pay and conditions.

The disruption on the railways came on the day a study was published which showed w orkers who commute by train spend up to six times as much of their salaries on fares as European passengers on publicly owned railways.

Action for Rail, a campaign by rail unions and the TUC, said some UK workers were spending 13% of their monthly wages on rail travel compared with 2% in Italy.

The research was published to highlight protests at more than 60 railway stations by campaigners and rail workers to mark the return to work after the festive break, with fares having increased at the weekend.

The analysis looked at a UK worker on an average salary who is spending 13% of their monthly wages on a £357.90 monthly season ticket from Chelmsford to London.

By contrast, the average amount of salary going on a monthly season ticket for a similar journey is 2% in Italy, 3% in Spain and 4% in Germany.

In France, which is the closest to the UK for cost, commuters still spend nearly a third less on season tickets than their counterparts in the UK, said the report.

But Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: " By looking purely at price, these figures ... ignore that trains in Britain are often faster and more frequent than those on the continent and that European railways are often more subsidised by taxpayers or do not spend as much maintaining and improving their networks."

Jeremy Corbyn joined protesters at London King's Cross station to call for lower ticket prices.

The Labour leader said his party first wanted to see more control over fares before eventually nationalising train operators.

Speaking at the protest, Mr Corbyn said: ''We're here to join with a lot of passengers and rail workers who welcome the fact we've got a good railway system, welcome all the public investment that's gone into it but are very concerned about the fare rises that have gone in, the high fares that many people have to pay, the problems for commuters travelling in and out of all of our major cities and the need for us the public to have much more control over the fare system on our railways.''

Asked what Labour wanted to do about rail fares, he said: "Immediately to get control of the ticketing system; in the longer run to bring the train operating companies into public ownership so that we can then have control over them."

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "We are helping hard-working people with the cost of transport. We've put a stop to inflation-busting increases in regulated fares until 2020.

"This will save the average season ticket holder £425 in this Parliament, and means earnings are outstripping rail fare increases for first time in a decade."

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