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Campaigners demand action in King's Lynn rail fare protest

Lynn rail passengers unhappy with the latest fare increase were urged to demand action from their new MP during a protest event at the town’s station.

The now annual demonstration by campaigners took place today as many commuters returned to work for the first time after the Christmas and New Year break.

This year, fares have risen by an average of 2.7 per cent, adding as much as £200 to the cost of an annual season ticket for travel between Lynn and London.

King's Lynn rail station (25756420)
King's Lynn rail station (25756420)

Industry bosses say the increases have been kept below the rate of the retail prices index which is used to measure them.

But research by Transport Focus suggests that more than half of passengers do not believe rail fares are good value for money.

And Lynn campaign co-ordinator Jo Rust called for commuters to demand change.

From left, Jo Rust, Francis Bone and Euan Broughton protest outside Lynn's railway station (25755606)
From left, Jo Rust, Francis Bone and Euan Broughton protest outside Lynn's railway station (25755606)

She said: “Our line is under the direct control of the Department for Transport and that is something that our MP can influence.

“I would urge people unhappy with the service, unhappy with the fare increase, to write to James Wild and ask him to make representations to the Department for Transport.”

The annual round of fare increases has again renewed debate over whether the railway network should be renationalised.

Although the prospect of such a radical step has receded following Labour’s crushing defeat at last month’s general election, the Association for British Commuters has called for a “serious discussion” to take place on the question of bringing the network back into public hands, claiming an ongoing review of the industry is too narrowly focused.

The group claims that a clear majority of the public support renationalisation and Mrs Rust said the idea was “overwhelmingly popular”, despite the election result.

She added: “People want a co-ordinated, joined up service. We’ve heard from people who need to go to Peterborough, Bury St Edmunds or Ipswich coming into Ely station and seeing the train they want going out.”

Meanwhile, industry bosses have thanked passengers for their patience as work on upgrades to the network continued.

Industry bosses have repeatedly pledged that eight-coach trains, instead of the current four-coach units, will start to run between Lynn and Cambridge later this year.

New sidings are currently being built at Lynn, along with platform extensions at both Littleport and Waterbeach.

And services are set to be disrupted during two further weekends in February as the work continues.

Mark Budden, Network Rail’s Anglia route director, said: “Over the Christmas and New Year period hundreds of our railway staff carried out crucial improvements and upgrades to the network.

“We took great care to keep the disruption to a minimum though, inevitably, some train services were affected so I’d like to thank our passengers for their patience and understanding while we carried out the works.

“We will continue to improve the network in 2020 and work in partnership with train operators to deliver a better service for passengers and freight users.”

But Mrs Rust said further improvements are still needed, regardless of the current upgrades.

She said: “What we need is trains every 30 minutes. That isn’t going to happen because it will need more train drivers and more rolling stock. That would make a real difference to people’s lives.”

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