SEASONS greetings will be handed out to rail passengers tomorrow, but it won’t be a jolly Christmas for commuters.
Campaigners will hold protests at Swindon station against the rising cost of rail travel and planned cuts to services and staff.
The protests, which will take place at stations across the South West, have been organised by the TUC’s Action for Rail campaign and come in the week after the Association of Train Operating Companies announced new inflation-busting fare rises for 2013.
Campaigners plan to hand out Christmas cards with a message from the train companies to commuters arriving at 50 train stations across the UK, and six in the South West, tomorrow morning and evening.
The card’s seasonal message from the union tells train travellers that as well as fare rises and staff cuts in the New Year, they can look forward to a 2013 packed full of cancelled trains, service cuts, and ticket office closures, all at a time when the train companies are making huge profits.
Action for Rail campaigners will encourage commuters to use the Christmas cards to tell their local MPs of their concern over what is happening to the UK’s railways.
The cards urge MPs to back a policy of investment, fair fares and a publicly-owned railway that puts people before profits.
Between 7.30am and 9.30am protesters will hand out the campaigning Christmas cards to commuters as they arrive at Swindon.
Chris Watts, an IT consultant who has carried out numerous petitions outside Swindon station against increasing rail fares, said the high prices are putting businesses off investing in the town.
“The rail prices in Swindon are a barrier for our economy and are stopping businesses investing in Swindon,” he said.
“My last petition was as part of the Federation of Small Businesses and we had a petition trying to ensure the electrification of the line included Swindon, which was successful, but we have never seen a response for rail fares.
“The reaction from passengers is good – people in Swindon know we are being ripped off but it is a monopoly so we don’t have the chance to go to another provider.”
To coincide with the mass Christmas card handout, Action for Rail plans to publish research highlighting how fare increases are hitting household incomes.