'If you're unemployed the railways are a no-go area' - Protests against fare hike
PUBLISHED: 13:24 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:21 02 January 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
The annual hike in fares for train tickets is pricing people out of rail travel, a Norfolk campaign group has said
Protests were held at railway stations in Norfolk on Wednesday, January 2, as part of a national campaign against the 3.1pc increase.
At Norwich railway station, protestors handed out flyers advocating a publicly-owned railway network to passengers returning to work after the Christmas holiday.
The cost of many rail season tickets rose by more than £100 due to the annual price hike.
Dave Welsh, a member of Nor4Nor, or Norfolk for the Nationalisation of Railways, said the hike will “put a heavy burden on season ticket holders” and “deter some people from using the trains”.
“If you’re unemployed, the railways are a no-go area,” he said. “It is pricing people out of rail travel. Fares are not there to fund the private companies, which is what it has been for 25 years.”
Nor4Nor was established three years ago. Mr Welsh, a former guard on the railways, said the campaign group had been a “lone voice” but that the “tide has turned”.
He added that there is a “thirst” among young people for alternatives to travelling by car.
Countering the claim that the cost of a season ticket is still less expensive than driving a car for a year, Mr Welsh said, “Thinking about the environment and climate issues, you want incentives to give people to travel on rail.”
Pete Wilkes, 71, said, “Government policy has been to reduce the level of subsidies for railways and shift the burden onto users. This contrasts with the road system, which has massive hidden public subsidies.”
Mr Wilkes, a retired teacher living in Norwich, added, “What’s got to happen is subsidies for rail and public transport have got to be increased.”
One passenger, Ann Puttock from Lingwood, had been inside Norwich railway station claiming a refund on a ticket after a train had broken down. She uses a senior rail card and said that on Saturday, December 29, she was travelling from Burton-on-Trent in East Stafforshire, where she had been visiting her daughter.
Ms Puttock said the train consisted of only two carriages and when it stopped in Ely, passengers from the London train boarded, and when the train arrived in Wymondham, fans travelling to Norwich for a football match got on.
She said the passengers were then informed the train had broken down and the passengers had to take a bus to Norwich. When she eventually got to Brundall she had to wait for another bus to Lingwood.
A spokesperson for Greater Anglia said the increase needs to be applied as many of the company’s costs will also increase in line with inflation.
The company also said it runs a scheme for unemployed people called Job Track, which offers six free train trips to job interviews for people who have been unemployed for more than six months.