Euro MP joins rail commuters at Huntingdon Railway Station to protest against hike in fares

MEP Alex Mayer with Huntingdon commuters

MEP Alex Mayer with Huntingdon commuters - Credit: Archant

An MP joined Huntingdon rail commuters this morning (January 2) to protest at today’s announcement that rail fares are to increase.

After a year of strike action, widespread cancellations and the worst punctuality record in a decade, it was revealed that fares will rise by 3.1 per cent.

Commuters face an unwelcome price hike on their return to work after the Christmas and new year break as they will be paying, on average, an extra £168 per year for a season ticket.

Demonstrations have taken place at stations across the rail network, including King’s Cross, Manchester, Norwich and in Huntingdon, protesters were joined by Cambridgeshire Labour MEP Alex Mayer.

She said: “Britain’s long-suffering rail commuters will spend up to five times more of their income on rail travel than their European counterparts as a result of this January’s price hike.

“Figures show on average that Brits spend 55p per mile travelling by rail. But it costs half that in Ireland at 27p and Belgium at 24p, while German passengers pay just 19p a mile. In Germany it costs £3,955.92, (4,395 euros) for a BahnCard100, an annual ticket that covers travel across their entire rail network, coming in at a staggering £1,496 less than a Huntingdon to Kings Cross season ticket.”

Since 2010, British rail fares have risen three times as fast as earnings even though commuter satisfaction has dipped to a 10-year low.

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Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has described the rail fare increases as a “disgrace”. In a video message, he said the rail network should work in the interests of everybody, “not just the profits of the few”.

The TUC said privatisation was “rewarding failure” by handing more than £1bn in dividends to investors in train companies over the past six years, even as ticket prices soared.

Anthony Smith, the chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers now pour more than £10bn a year into the railway alongside significant government investment, so the rail industry cannot be short of funding. When will this translate into a more reliable services that are better value for money?”

Alex Mayer added: “Give commuters a break. Surely after the delays, cancellations and overcrowding on the railways last year, the government should not be allowing fares to increase faster than many people’s wages. We need to be encouraging people onto trains not putting obstacles in the way.

“It is time to learn from Europe. Startlingly it costs more for the 65 mile commute from Huntingdon to London than it does to travel across the whole German rail network. The Government could have used its power to cap regulated fares, instead they have let train companies off the hook and failed to stand up for passengers.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC: “I don’t think it’s right and proper that you see pay rises at 3.5 per cent or more on parts of the rail network that are the biggest factor behind the fare increases.”

He apologised for “tough moments” on the rail network in 2018 but said new trains being introduced in London, Birmingham and the north of England showed the impact of “massive investment” by the government and private sector.