7 September 2011: The Fair Fares Now month of action went better than we could have hoped for!
Hundreds of volunteers stepped forward to run events at over 40 stations across the country, from Maidstone to St. Albans, Exeter to Carlisle and everywhere in between. In many places, local MPs joined in to show their support. The response from passengers was overwhelmingly supportive, and the events also helped to generate a huge amount of local media coverage, whose importance in shaping political opinion is often forgotten. Together, campaigners gathered thousands of signatures on the petition demanding that the government reverse its plans to raise fares by 28% by 2015.
We capped off this groundswell of action with a successful demonstration outside Waterloo station on the date that next January’s planned fare rises were announced. The turn-out was large, colourful and noisy, and after listening to speakers including Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Maria Eagle, we joined together for a mass ‘pop-in’, popping hundreds of balloons marked ‘No 28% fare hikes’ to show that it’s time to burst the bubble on inflation-busting fare rises (see photos here). The media were out in force, and we made our views heard loud and clear in every national newspaper and on every major TV and radio channel.
Now, it’s time to focus on the government’s fares review. We’ll be working hard behind the scenes, demonstrating how dire the impacts of fare hikes will be, and pushing the government to commit to improvements like part-time season tickets or being able to pay advance fare up to departure – as well as reducing the cost of train travel overall.
There’s no denying we’ve got a tough job ahead of us. But together, we’ve already made fare increases a political hot potato rather than an annual fait accompli. The government are now firmly on the back foot, having been forced to try to justify their ‘difficult decision’ in the public spotlight rather than staying silent or hiding behind the train companies. They’ve said they want to end the era of above inflation fare rises. The door is open, and – with the huge amount of new support and momentum generated by everyone’s hard work over the month of action – we know we can win this campaign.