Rail passengers plan ticket 'strike'More Train Less Strain hits out at fare rises
02 January 2008
A rail users' group is planning a ticket boycott in protest at fare increases of more than twice the rate of inflation on many lines from today.
Some passengers have suffered increased ticket prices of up to 11%, while regulated fares, which include most season tickets, have gone up by an average of 4.8%.
Some users of First Great Western trains - one of the most overcrowded and least punctual services in the country - are to stage a revolt at the fare hike in the face of poor performance.
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More Train Less Strain
The campaign group More Train Less Strain (MTLS) is planning to build on a small-scale protest held in the West Country last year, during which passengers refused to buy tickets, instead producing specially-printed 'protest tickets'.
The group's leaders said dire overcrowding that led some passengers to have to stand in the toilets was unacceptable.
First Great Western accepted the mock tickets in the Bristol and Bath area to avoid confrontation.
A statement on the MTLS website reads: 'Public discontent is such that a New Year fare strike is almost inevitable. We stated that a 10% fare rise at a time when FGW admits their service is in a state of chaos is like pouring oil on the fire.
'We suggested to FGW that the public might hold back on action if they withdraw the fare rise. The ball is in their court. It is up to FGW to rebuild confidence in their train service.'
The group will hold a public meeting in Bath on January 15 to discuss the details of the strike, which is likely to be held later in the month.
Peter Andrews, spokesman for MTLS, said: 'This time it looks like the strike might be much bigger. I imagine it will be similar to last year.
'We are seeing cancellations, delays and fare increases that are well above and beyond the rate of inflation. The travelling public has had enough.'
A First Great Western spokesman said: 'Last year was a one-off as far as we were concerned and MTLS made their point on that occasion.
'We will consider what our policy will be if and when the strike happens. Hopefully they won't take strike action, and will find other ways of explaining their problems to us.'
London TravelWatch, the watchdog for transport users in and around London, has also branded the fare increases excessive, and called for an independent audit of this year's fare rises.
London TravelWatch chairman Brian Cooke said: 'The timekeeping of FGW in the London area is by far the worst with, in the second quarter of 2007, almost three times as many trains delayed as any other train company.
'In the most recent month for which figures are available, FGW's London area peak trains were on time on only 66% of occasions, against a target of 88%, which makes the FGW fare rises a bitter pill for their passengers.'
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