Protests rage as train fare hikes begin
PROTESTS erupted outside one of the area's main train stations as frustrations at an '˜eye-watering rise' in ticket prices boiled over.
Campaigners and passengers rallied at Portsmouth and Southsea morning and evening demonstrations against the 3.3 per cent price hike in train fares.
The controversial rise, which has been condemned by politicians and commuters, is the largest increase in five years.
Jon Woods, chairman of the Portsmouth Trades Union Council, said: ‘I think the increase is appalling, it’s appalling for the travellers on the trains who have to pay more and more money when wages aren’t keeping up with it.
‘People are becoming impoverished by them, the private rail companies are making money hand over fist yet they’re cutting staff and safety is at risk — it’s an absolute diabolical mess.
Portsmouth City Council boss Councillor Donna Jones voiced her anger at the situation, branding it shocking.
She said: ‘The current situation is unacceptable.
‘The number of disruptions on trains across the south coast of England over the last 12 months has been terrible.
‘Something needs to be to sorted now. Having a price increase on a second-rate service simply is not good enough.’
Stephen Morgan was among those campaigning outside Portsmouth’s train station.
Concerned commuters spoke to the Labour MP – who is now lobbying central government – about the price hike.
He said the impact of the increase would hit the pockets of scores of season ticket holders across Portsmouth.
‘This year’s fare rise is the highest for five years at a time when wages aren’t increasing, and there’s real frustration from Portsmouth commuters about this.’ he said.
‘In the past eight years we’ve seen the cost of a season ticket from Portsmouth to Southampton has gone up £504.00, that’s a staggering 28 per cent.’
South Western Rail, which operates in the city, is increasing its fares by 3.3 per cent.
While Govia Thameslink Railway, which is the parent company of Southern Rail, is also boosting its fare prices by 3.3 per cent.
Transport secretary Christopher Grayling – who is on a state trip in Qatar – was last night accused of ‘running scared’ from the issue.
Labour’s Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: ‘The secretary of state for transport’s failure to publicly explain to rail passengers why they are being hit with crushing fare increases today smacks of a man running scared.’
The rise comes amid a bitter industrial dispute between railway unions and Southern.
Union bosses from RMT have announced its members on Southern Rail will strike on January 8, bringing more misery to commuters.
The strikes are in opposition to plans by Southern to remove staff from trains, which would the become driver-only-operated.
Unions claim the move could potentially make trains more dangerous.
However, the Office of Road and Rail has insisted the trains will be safe so long as the right equipment and training is provided.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said ‘every single effort’ had been made to resolve the dispute but that they were left with ‘no option’ but to hold more strikes.
Mr Cash said: ‘No one should be in any doubt, these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies.’