SWINDON commuters have backed protesters who staged a fare strike on First Great Western services.

The Swindon-based train company has come under renewed fire from passengers for soaring fares and unreliable services.

And members of the More Train Less Strain campaign group were so fed up they wore cattle masks as they boarded their trains on Monday morning in protest at being herded into carriages like animals.

There was standing room only on the Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads service after 40 passengers brandishing special fare strike tickets were allowed through barriers.

Peter Andrews, of More Train Less Strain, said: "We feel at last our message is beginning to get through. The First Great Western service is appalling.

Comedian Dom Joly, who often catches First Great Western services from Swindon, also boarded the train to support the campaign.

Mike Skinner, 59, from Old Town, said: "I think it is a good way of showing First Great Western how dissatisfied their passengers are with the service they provide.

"The prices are high and the disruptions are common."

Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle, who uses the train company to get to London, said: "The staff are pompous and the ticket prices are expensive. It is badly managed and badly run.

"They are forever apologising for late or cancelled trains. I think they should lose the franchise and become nationalised.

"I don't blame More Train Less Strain for going on strike."

Michael Vicenge, 25, from Newbury, said: "I think that First Great Western can do a lot better. I don't always get a seat when I travel with them."

Another passenger, Lorne Green, from Salisbury, added: "They provide an unreliable service and they need to access their shortcomings quickly.

"There should be more carriages and they should put their passengers first.

First Great Western said fewer than 100 people had refused to pay fares yesterday out of 100,000 passengers using their 1,350 services.

"We have taken the names and addresses of this tiny percentage, which is the usual policy for fare evaders," they said in a statement.

"First Great Western accepts it has failed to deliver an appropriate level of service and is taking steps to improve its service and offer enhanced compensation.

"The More Trains Less Strain group have a publicly stated agenda of the re-nationalisation of the railways.

"Despite this, we have listened to them and have delivered refreshed long-distance and local trains with new interiors, better facilities and improved reliability as part of our £200m investment- the biggest of any train operator."