Protests at West Norfolk stations as rail fare rises come into force

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Rail passengers in West Norfolk are not seeing improved services in return for increases in their fares, campaigners have claimed.

As many commuters returned to work this morning for the first time after Christmas, activists staged a protest outside the stations in Lynn and Downham against the annual rise in fares.

They want an end to what they claim is a rip-off that sees passengers here paying far more for travel than their counterparts in Europe.

But the group which represents the rail industry maintains the rises are necessary to continue improving services.

The cost of regulated fares, such as season tickets, has risen by 1.1 per cent, meaning an annual season ticket from Lynn to London Kings Cross now costs £5,524, around £60 more than last year.

A similar ticket from Lynn to Cambridge now costs £2,208, around £25 more than in 2015.

Representatives of the Lynn and District Trades Council and the North West Norfolk Constituency Labour Party (CLP) were outside Lynn’s station on Monday morning to urge commuters to contact their MPs to demand change.

The protest there was one of more than 200 planned across the country under the Action for Rail banner.

Although train operators have pointed out this year’s rise is the lowest for several years, CLP secretary Jo Rust said most commuters were still supportive of the demand for lower fares.

She said: “Of course we’re glad the rise is lower, but it’s still a rise and we’re not seeing significant improvements for the increases in fares.

“We haven’t seen more carriages, more frequent services or better services.

“People have to travel further afield to get employment. Rail travel is not a luxury.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “On average 97p in every pound from fares is spent on trains, staff and other running costs.

“With passenger numbers doubling in the last 20 years, money from fares now almost covers the railway’s day-to-day operating costs.

“This allows government to focus its funding on building a bigger, better network when the railway is becoming increasingly important at driving economic growth, underpinning jobs, and connecting friends and families.

“As an industry, we are working closer together to deliver better stations, more trains and improved services, and to get more out of every pound we spend.”

Network Rail has also revealed it is examining the possibility of introducing longer trains to the line from Lynn to Cambridge during the coming year.

But Mrs Rust has little faith that passengers will see improvements any time soon.

She said: “We’ve heard it all before. It’s the same noises that we’ve been hearing for a long time. We’re funding their profits.”