Britain’s rail network was the backdrop to farcical scenes on the day Britons faced inflation-busting ticket price rises as Labour’s trains chief attempted to join protests.
On Tuesday, Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald denounced the privatised rail system outside King’s Cross station in London at the start of the day, and then took the train to Stevenage to meet others protesting against the spike.
However, his onward Virgin Trains East Coast train to Leeds, where he was to give broadcast interviews to highlight fares being ramped up by 3.4%, broke down soon after leaving Stevenage. He tweeted:
“My day of campaigning has been interrupted by a broken down train on the recently bailed-out Virgin East Coast on the same day fares are hiked by 3.6%,” he said. “Let’s take our railway back into public ownership!”
But problems didn’t end there.
With McDonald giving up on his Leeds trip and heading back to his Middlesbrough constituency on a second train, he gave an interview to BBC News.
But underlining the frustrations felt by many, the train’s wi-fi connection gave up during the live conversation on the rolling news channel.
WATCH FARCICAL INTERVIEW BELOW
Presenter Simon McCoy attempted to ask McDonald about his miserable journey before the screen froze.
“Oh, when it says reconnecting you know what you are in trouble,” said McCoy as McDonald’s face blurred. Sound loss and connection issues continued during the interview.
Average rail ticket prices rose by 3.4% - the biggest increase to fares since 2013 - and the hike first began to bite on Tuesday as many returned to work after the Christmas break.
Protests were staged at around 40 stations, with many commuters seeing their season tickets go up by more than £100. Research by the TUC also found UK passengers spent five times as much as rail travellers in other EU countries.
At the same time, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has come under fire after it emerged he was on a visit to Qatar on the same day millions of Britons faced the inflation-busting rail rises.
Not a single UK transport minister was available to defend the fare hikes on the media
A customer called Emily Lucinda Cole tweeted to complain about the behaviour of a train manager on her journey.
She tweeted: “When Virgin Trains mess up and the older male train manager in the resulting conversation dismisses you with that hideously patronising word women shudder at in contexts such as these: ‘honey’.”
But a customer service rep for Virgin Trains replied, writing: “Sorry for the mess up Emily, would you prefer “pet” or “love” next time? ^MS”