Labour shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald leads rail fare protests at Stevenage – before train breakdown

Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor

Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor meet party campaigners at the town's railway station. Picture: Labour Party - Credit: Archant

Labour’s shadow transport secretary met party campaigners at Stevenage railway station this morning to slam rail fare rises – before his train north for more demonstrations broke down.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald spent the year’s first working day attending demonstrations calling for railway renationalisation, starting at London King’s Cross before heading north to Stevenage on a Virgin East Coast train.

He told Labour campaigners: “The Tories’ failure on our railways means passengers have faced truly staggering fare rises of over £2,500 since 2010, with fares having increased three times as much as wages.

“Commuters have repeatedly been told that higher fares are necessary to fund investment, but promised investment has been cancelled and essential works have been delayed by years.

“Decisions taken by government ministers are making rail travel unaffordable for the many in favour of huge profits for the few.

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“The truth is that our fragmented, privatised railway drives up costs and leaves passengers paying more for less.

“The railways need serious reform that could be achieved if the Tories matched Labour’s manifesto policy to extend public ownership to passenger services, but instead ministers are persisting with a failed model of privatisation that is punishing passengers.”

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Mr McDonald then boarded a second Virgin East Coast service to attend another demonstration in Leeds, but his train broke down near Grantham due to a power failure – prompting Mr McDonald to post an online video from his stationary train.

He said: “This is on the same line that’s had the benefit of a £2 billion pay out in the last few weeks, and of course it comes hot on the heels of an announcement today of a 3.6-per-cent increase in fares for the travelling public.

“If anything demonstrates just how broken this system is, it’s this today.”

Ticket prices have risen by an average of 3.4 per cent this year. The price hike, set by the Department for Transport in line with rises in inflation, is the biggest increase to fares since 2013.

A 12-month season ticket for unlimited daily travel between Biggleswade and all London transport zones now costs £5,856 or £12.62 per day. From Stevenage it is £5,084 – £10.95 per day – and from Hitchin it is £5,216 or £11.24 per day.

A spokesman for Govia Thameslink – which operates most of the services through Stevenage and the surrounding area – said the Government would use the cash increase to plough money back into the rail infrastructure and make improvements to lines and stations.

The firm is set to unveil a series of major improvements to its services from May this year with new trains, increased capacity and direct routes connecting our area with Brighton and the south coast.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group – which brings together train operators and Network Rail – said 97p out of every pound paid in fares went back into operating and improving the railways.

He said: “On average, fares will rise by less than inflation this year.

“With more people travelling that means more money for investment by the private and public partnership railway to build the better network Britain needs.”

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