SWINDON’S MPs are urging football fans to lobby First Great Western to reinstate discounted rail fares for groups travelling to see Swindon Town’s cup final game at Wembley.
Group Save tickets previously available to First Great Western customers have been withdrawn on Sunday, March 25, meaning groups of fans travelling from Swindon to Paddington will not be able to get the usual discount.
The Swindon-based operator said the tickets had been withdrawn to prevent overcrowding but cheap ticket options were still available.
Robert Buckland, South Swindon MP, said he asked the firm to reverse the decision and lay on extra trains but he has so far been told “no”.
Now he and North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson are urging supporters to bombard the customer services department at First Great Western with complaints to bring about a U-turn.
Mr Buckland said: “If people want to voice their concerns then it would be a good idea to lobby the company. Just appeal to reason, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable approach to take. People with concerns should make the company aware of that. It’s a company that offers a public service and the public has every right to contact them with their concerns.”
Mr Buckland said the operator would not comply with his plea to reverse the decision, so the cheapest adult return would be £41, meaning some fans would probably hire coaches.
He said the firm plans to provide eight carriages, instead of the normal seven, but will still only run two trains an hour due to works planned by Network Rail, which are hard to rearrange.
Mr Buckland said: “The impression I got was they didn’t seem to think they had much discretion to lower prices and I think they view the £41 return as offering the best possible value to travel a 160-mile round trip between Swindon and Paddington.
“I think when you have got potentially huge demand and you have got groups, you need to take the opportunity and use the discretion and encourage people onto the trains.”
Mr Tomlinson also joined his call to fans, and added: “It will hopefully highlight to First Great Western how much potential business they could be missing out on.”
After the news broke on Friday, angry fans vented their frustration on the Adver website.
James Mullard, of Old Town, pointed out that the train to London is overcrowded as a norm and complained about another discount being removed recently.
He said: “I commute to Paddington and then on to Old Street and back every day from Swindon.
“Pretty much every day, especially coming home the trains are completely rammed full of people standing in the aisles.
“To say they have made this decision to prevent overcrowding is beyond insulting – it’s clearly to squeeze more money out of people.”
Last week, a spokesman for First Great Western said: “Group Save tickets help fill seats on otherwise quiet services.
“When a service looks like it will be close to capacity, the Group Save discounts are removed to avoid overcrowding, however super off peak tickets are available.
“We’re looking at large numbers of Swindon fans travelling on our service that day, so we urge any Swindon fans thinking of travelling by train to book early.”
If you would like to complain to First Great Western about the removal of group discounts from services on March 25, contact its customers service team by visiting firstgreatwestern.co.uk/About-Us/Customer-services/Contact-us.