Commuter fare strike hits Bath and Bristol trains

Commuter fare strike hits Bath and Bristol trains

Hundreds of people yesterday refused to buy tickets for First Great Western rail services in the Bristol and Bath area, instead presenting fake "cattle class" tickets in protest at service cuts and fare hikes.

The Guardian reported that an unusual band of rebels - business people, civil servants and office clerks - risked a fine or jail yesterday by refusing to pay for their commuter journeys.

Claiming that the service in the Bristol and Bath area was so poor that it was not worth paying for, scores of passengers boarded their usual trains brandishing spoof tickets.

Although they were warned that they could face heavy penalties, the train operator, First Great Western (FGW), adopted a "softly, softly" approach - and the rebels were waved through at both ends of their journey.

Members of the protest group More Trains Less Strain (MTLS) said they had no choice but to mount the fare strike following a reduction in services which had made their daily commutes a nightmare.

The group claims that other commuters around Britain are likely to stage their own protest strikes. Travellers in Reading, Oxford and Cambridge have all suggested they too might take similar direct action.

One of the organisers, Tony Ambrose, said: "The train companies and the government are concentrating on improving inter-city services at the cost of commuter lines. We are jammed in every day. You see people having to stand on one foot all the way from Bath to Bristol and others fainting. I've had to stand in the toilet with two other people and we've even heard of people slipping down between the platform and the train in the crush."

On the spoof tickets FGW was renamed Worst Great Western and the ticket type was "cattle truck", the route to "hell and back".

The fare strike is the strongest display yet of commuter anger over capacity problems on the rail network. Despite improved punctuality and increased investment, a record number of passengers feel they are not getting value for money from their tickets due to overcrowding.

Some industry observers blame the franchise system, where companies such as FGW pay the government for the right to run trains along certain routes.

FGW denies it has reduced the length of its Bristol and Bath trains due to financial constraints caused by rising franchise payments and instead blames the shortage on temporary carriage maintenance problems that had confined some rolling stock to depots.

More information
www.moretrainlessstrain.org.uk
libcom.org/tags/prices - Other fare strikes and struggles over prices