Protests held at Sheffield railway station as rail fares hiked up

Commuters returning to work after the festive break faced a further blow as rail fares in Sheffield increased by an average of 3.1 per cent despite punctuality being at a 13-year low.

Around 80 campaigners gathered at Sheffield railway station as many rail season tickets rose by more than £100 due to the annual price hike on Wednesday.

Protests outside Sheffield Railway station this morning at the increase in rail prices...Pic Steve Ellis

Protests outside Sheffield Railway station this morning at the increase in rail prices...Pic Steve Ellis

Members of the Sheffield Heeley Labour party, Sheffield Trades Union Council and the Green Party all protested against the rise.

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Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said: “The fares have gone up 3 per cent despite punctuality being at a 13-year low – it's unbeliveable.

“Obviously, I get the train to and from London and, while they are not too bad in terms of punctuality, the wifi is poor, the phone reception is poor, and they’re often overcrowded and yet we're paying through the nose for it.”

Protests outside Sheffield Railway station this morning at the increase in rail prices...Pic Steve Ellis

Protests outside Sheffield Railway station this morning at the increase in rail prices...Pic Steve Ellis

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One in seven trains were delayed by at least five minutes in the past 12 months as a series of major issues have plagued the railway.

Passengers were warned to face further disruption throughout January as members of the RMT union remain locked in a bitter dispute over the role of guards.

The 3.1 per cent average fare rise is the second highest since January 2013.

It means an annual season ticket from Sheffield to Leeds will now cost £2,620, to Manchester Piccadilly will cost £3,156 and from Sheffield to London will set commuters back a staggering £12,688.

Ms Haigh added: “Everyone agrees that rail operators shouldn't be pocketing even more profit. This is one of the biggest campaign days we’ve had."

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling marked the increase in fares by announcing that a new railcard to extend child fares to 16 and 17 year olds will be available in time for the new academic year in September.

A railcard for 26-30 year olds also went on sale on Wednesday.

Mr Grayling claimed the Government's ‘record investment’ in the rail network will help passengers get the ‘frequent, affordable and reliable journeys they deserve’

Student Liam Williams, who was arriving back in the city after spending Christmas at home in Northampton, said: “I’ve got a rail card which makes it a bit better but the trains are always late of cancelled for no reason."

Fellow commuter Steve Bills, 61, said: “I usually drive because it’s far easier and more reliable. I’ve come to Sheffield for a meeting and my train was late with no explanation.”

And Emily Atkinson was heading back to Manchester after spending Christmas and New Year with family in Sheffield.

She said: “The trains between Manchester and Sheffield are a nightmare. You can never get one on a Saturday because of the strikes and they’re always overcrowded.

“I don't have a season ticket but I always try and buy my tickets in advance so it's cheaper.” 

Sheffield Green Councillor Douglas Johnson said “Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that the British public know that railway network isn’t fit for purpose and change urgently needs to happen.

“But that doesn’t help rail users here in Sheffield when they are stood on the platform waiting for a late – or worse still cancelled – train. There feels like there is little we can do except wait – or if you can, ditch the train altogether.

“Rail users must make the rail companies pay for their incompetence – literally. The Delay Repay scheme lets passengers claim compensation for late-running services.

The Department for Transport has commissioned former British Airways chief executive Keith Williams to carry out a root and branch review of Britain's railway, including fares.