King’s Lynn campaigners protest against fare hikes as train operator says ‘sorry’ for poor service

Campaigners protest outside Lynn's railway station
Campaigners protest outside Lynn's railway station
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Passengers are paying more for worsening rail services to and from West Norfolk, activists have claimed today.

Great Northern bosses have apologised for recent problems on the network, which they maintain they are working to address.

But campaigners say an increasing trend of delays and cancellations on the route linking the borough with Cambridge and London mean fare increases that came into effect yesterday are not justified.

Demonstrations were held at the stations in Lynn and Downham this morning, as many commuters returned to work for the first time after the annual round of fare increases came into force.

The protests were led by Action for Rail campaigners, who want the rail network to be returned to public ownership.

North West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust said she spoke to people who were late for work and training courses respectively, as a result of delays during the protest period which critics say are now happening much more frequently.

She said: “We know, under Great Northern, the service has got significantly worse and people are very angry about it.

“We are being held to ransom. We have no option but to use Great Northern, unless we get up extremely early and use one of the few Greater Anglia services.”

A Great Northern spokesman said: “We know the service has not been good enough and for that we are sorry.

“Our passengers deserve better and, together with Network Rail, we’re working hard to improve performance.

“There have also been performance issues on Great Northern caused by weather, signal failures in key locations and problems with the ageing trains we have begun to replace on this route.

“We are bringing in more drivers to reduce cancellations and passengers on Great Northern are the first in the country to benefit from the new 15 minute compensation delay scheme.”

The extended compensation package was introduced last month, but faced criticism from campaigners, who claimed it showed the company was unwilling to resolve known problems.

Across the rail network, fares have risen by an average of 2.3 per cent this year, the highest increase for three years.

However, Great Northern fares are rising more slowly, by an average of 1.8 per cent.

Industry bosses say all but three pence of every pound spent on tickets is reinvested in the network.

And transport secretary Chris Grayling have claimed that wages are now rising faster than fare increases.

He added: “We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for more than a century, providing more seats and services. We have always fairly balanced the cost of this investment between the taxpayer and the passenger.”

But Mrs Rust said: “I don’t know anyone who has had a 2.3 per cent pay rise and why should your wage rise go for paying for necessary travel to work?”