CAMPAIGNERS for better south coast train services have voiced support for a protest against higher rail fares.
Yesterday commuters returning from their festive break were greeted by an average price hike of almost six per cent from the region’s two largest train companies, Southern and South West Trains.
The national average rise of six per cent was marked by a Fair Fares protest at St Pancras station in London.
Other protesters from the TSSA rail union carried placards depicting Prime Minister David Cameron as the Fat Controller.
Members of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) handed out leaflets inviting commuters to contact the Treasury to tell Chancellor George Osborne what they thought of the fare increases, which took effect on Monday.
David Habershon, who founded the NO 450 campaign in 2006 to call for an improved rail service between London and Portsmouth, said he understood why people were protesting.
‘These fare rises go on every year,’ he said. ‘The government is supposed to regulate the prices – but the train companies will charge whatever they can get away with.
‘We want an acceptable level of service with the Portsmouth to London line at a sensible price. So if they are charging extra money that should be going back into improving the railways.
‘But instead it is going into Treasury coffers and shareholders’ pockets.’
He added that far more people were unhappy with the rises than the protests suggested.
‘The problem is that commuters are not natural demonstrators,’ he said. ‘They are mostly business people who don’t have time to protest.
‘And there is no alternative to rail travel for many people, so they just stay quiet and accept it.’
MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, said she would be meeting with transport secretary Justine Greening on January 12 to discuss the issue.
She said: ‘People expect slight fare increases but these rises can’t be supported by the quality of the service.
‘Passengers are getting a worse and worse deal.’