Demonstrators gathered in Newcastle to protest against another “massive” increase of 4.1% in rail fares.
Central Station was one of 50 sites across the country where campaigners gathered to voice their upset at the announcement yesterday.
The rise – which comes into effect in January next year – will be the sixth time in seven years that rail fares have outstripped wages, said campaigners.
Between 2008 and next January rail fares will have jumped by 40%, compared with a 15% increase in average earnings, it was claimed.
Retail price index (RPI) inflation dipped to 3.1% in July from 3.3% in June – dooming train passengers to a sharp rise in ticket prices because regulated fares are pegged to the index.
Train companies raise average regulated fares – such as season tickets – by one percentage point on top of July’s RPI inflation figure.
Rail Maritime and Transport union leader Bob Crow said: “This latest inflation-busting hike in fares is a kick in the teeth for the British people who are condemned for another year to pay the highest prices in Europe to travel on clapped-out, overcrowded and unreliable trains while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.”
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association held a demonstration outside the Transport Department in London, unfurling banners accusing Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker of “betraying” rail passengers.
General secretary Manuel Cortes handed in a letter urging the minister to set a deadline for ending the annual inflation-plus fares rise. He said: “What we want is an end to these crippling year-in, year-out rail fare rises, starting in 2015 with a new formula, RPI minus 1%. We already have the highest rail fares in Europe and we want a firm commitment from the minister to scrap the present formula of RPI plus 1%.”
Protests were held at stations including Newcastle Central, Birmingham New Street, Bristol Temple Meads, Glasgow Central, Manchester Piccadilly and London’s Paddington and Victoria.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady led calls for the railways to be returned to the public sector, citing the East Coast main line as an example of how that can work.
She said: “You only have to look at the nationalised East Coast Main Line to see that public ownership of the railways not only works, it provides a better deal for passengers and taxpayers alike.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said nobody liked paying more for fares but the Government was investing heavily in the railways.
Mr McLoughlin said that taxpayers contributed huge amounts to the running of the railways and passengers had to make contributions, both as rail travellers and as taxpayers.