Disgruntled rail commuters launched a protest against rail fares outside one of the capital’s busiest stations as an average increase of 3.1 per cent came into force today (Weds).
Organised by passenger groups and unions, around 50 people gathered from 7.30am to protest against the rises after a year of timetable chaos across the country.
Hundreds of London commuters streamed past the growing crowd of protesters, who held flags and banners calling for an end to privatisation and a freeze on rail fares.
The cost of many rail season tickets rose by more than £100 due to the annual price hike. This year’s rise is higher than last year’s – which stood at 2.6 per cent.
Anger has steadily grown after a year of disruptions and cancellations to timetables including on the Thameslink and Northern Networks. The setbacks led to rail punctuality hitting a 12-year low.
Clutching signs that read ‘Happy New Fare Rise’, two union representatives from the RMT wore face masks of Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and clutched wads of cash as they posed for pictures.
Leading the protest was Summer Dean, 26, from Brighton from the Association of British Commuters.
She said: “Fares have gone up by 3.1 per cent, that’s following major disruption we have seen across the country.
“It seems to be more and more disruptive every day but fares go up and up. It’s the passengers that are paying the price for disruption. It doesn’t work for us, it’s all about profit.”
Protestors chanted: “Cut the fares not the jobs”, and sang a tune about Chris Grayling.
The lyrics were: “Failing Grayling, Grayling’s failing.
“Once again I’m late for tea. Grayling’s failing, and he’s not bothered, and he blames the RMT.”
William Derby, 24, who commutes from Essex to Farringdon every day said: “Income doesn’t go up but rail fares do. That really annoys me. I think it’s atrocious that they keep rising but my wages haven’t.”
Many commuters raised their fists in support of the protest and cheered as they took photos before hurrying off into the crisp morning.
Simon Tilley, 38, is self-employed and works in auditing and compliance.
He commutes all over the south east and said he has had to turn down work because of poor services.
Mr Tilley said: “I’m self employed, I have to travel all over the UK for work and I have had to use a lot of different rail services.
“Year on year it’s got worse. I have to turn down work because I can’t get there, purely because of unreliable services.
“Chris Grayling talks about all these improvements but last year was the worst ever for rail.
“If you want money for investment, sack Mr Grayling – put his salary into those investments.
“I can’t see what function he serves that justifies his salary at the moment.”
Retired nurse Peter Evans, 64, said although he no longer commutes into the city, his grown-up children pay a large chunk of their salaries to rail companies.
He said: “I know that they pay a lot to get to their offices. My son lives in Surrey and commutes into London every day.
“For young people, who may be in the early stages of their career and not earn a lot of money, I think they especially are affected by the fare increases.”
Natasha Laken, 23, said: “I agree with the protest, I think most people do.
“The train I take from Epsom to Waterloo is usually very over-crowded.
“I have seen people faint because it can get so hot from all the people on board, and I have seen people miss their stop because they quite frankly can’t get through all the other passengers in time to get off at the station.
“They should tell us how they’re going to improve the services before they just force a fare increase.
“But everyone needs to get to work so they don’t have any choice but to just pay it I suppose.”
Ellie Harrison, who set up passenger group Bring Back British Rail, said the problem with the country’s railway is privatisation.
The freelance designer and art teacher from Glasgow said: “The problem with our railways at the moment is that we are losing a hunger amount of money to trains because we are duplicating services with different companies.
“They all have their own branding, marketing and CEO salaries. We are wasting money as a result.
“When you are asking people to pay for your fares and the service isn’t improving at all and it’s deteriorating, everyone get’s really angry.”
By Adela Whittingham