COMMUTERS must write to their MP over “needless” rail fare increases which mean an annual season ticket from Colchester to London Liverpool Street is now £5,104.

The £176 change reflects a 3.6 per cent rise in season tickets and 3.4 per cent in train fares.

It is the largest spike in five years sparking Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union protests, backed by the commuter groups, at stations across the country.

Dave Harris, Labour Essex county councillor for Maypole, and former Network Rail employee, spoke to passengers from picket lines at Colchester’s three stations.

He said they feel punished by the price hike.

“They don’t feel they’re getting value for money and feel they’re being penalised by the needless increases," he said.

“People are already stressed, they’re having to travel to London because the best jobs tend to be by the big moke but franchise holders are making train travel unaffordable. 

“What we want are high quality trains and services for the people.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Labour councillors Dave Harris, Tim Young, Lee Scordis and Julie Young (far right) with supporters Barry Gilheany and Jan Plummer 

Around 40 per cent of rail fares are regulated by governments in line with the previous July’s retail price index (RPI).

An off-peak day return ticket from Colchester to Chelmsford now costs £13.10 (+40p) while to London is now £33.50 (+£1.10) and to Clacton is £9.40 (+30p).

But cheaper super off-peak day return tickets are available in the afternoons and at weekends.

Data from the Office of Rail and Road claims the average price paid per journey on a season ticket has fallen in real terms by 15.1 per cent since 1999/2000.

Mr Harris, who is calling for renationalisation of the railways, does not believe the industry’s claim that 97p in every £1 from fares goes back into rail services.

He added: “I really believe nationalisation is the answer.

"The Government can then prioritise the commuter routes and get people to and from work reliably and efficiently, raise the quality of services, get more trains running, and get more people on them.

“This isn’t the way franchises work because all they care about are getting money for the shareholders.

“The Government should be taking control over this so we get good trains and services for the people.”

Witham MP Priti Patel also spoke out about the need for heavier investment into the Great Eastern Main Line’s infrastructure to “increase capacity, improve reliability and reduce delays”. 

The fare changes now mean an annual season ticket from Witham to London is £4,428, and £5,516 with a zone 1-6 travelcard.

She said: "Following the campaign I ran, over £1 billion of new investment has been planned during the course of the current rail franchise including new trains.

"But more needs to be done to deliver a better passenger experience and improving rail service has the potential unlock billions of pounds of additional economic growth.”

A spokesperson for Greater Anglia reiterated the cost-saving measures planned for passengers, including Flex Cernet tickets for those who regularly travel the same route, and rail cards for people aged 50-plus and 26 to 30.

She added: “Our average fare increase is 3.4 per cent, however, we’re freezing our advance fares, which start from just £5 and can be up to 60 and 70 per cent lower than walk-up fares.

“The 3.4 per cent increase applies to Government regulated fares, such as season tickets and anytime singles and returns.

"We need to apply this increase, as many of our costs will also increase in line with inflation.”

This is how much more you pay:

Annual season tickets:

Colchester to London Liverpool Street - £5,104, (+£176)

Colchester to Clacton - £1,816 (+£60)

Off-peak day return tickets:

Colchester to London Liverpool Street - £33.50 (+£1.10)

Colchester to Clacton - £9.40 (+30p) 

Colchester to Chelmsford - £13.10 (+40p) 

Colchester to Norwich *off-peak return - £29.50 (+£1)  

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