Shadow Transport Secretary's train breaks down on way to Leeds rail fare protest

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald - set to meet campaigners in Leeds today over rail fare hikes - has had to cancel the event after his train broke down.

Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald (centre) joins campaigners protesting against rail fare increases outside King's Cross station in London, before he set off for Leeds. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The MP was set to arrive at Leeds Station at midday to speak about rail fare rises on the day that increases of 3.4 per cent came into effect.

Tweeting from his train this morning he said: "After great rail fares rally at Kings X, and then meeting brilliant campaigners at Stevenage, now en route to Leeds only for our Virgin train to breakdown with complete loss of power just like this awful Tory government!"

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The increase, which came into effect this morning, is the largest for five years with average ticket prices across Britain going up by 3.4 per cent.

Protests were set to be held outside 40 stations including Leeds with members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union handing out chocolates to "sweeten the bitter pill".

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators, said "nobody wants to see fares going up" but insisted the increase is necessary to improve the network.

He said: "All we can do is make sure we invest to improve as fast as we possibly can.

"We've had decades of under-investment which we are now addressing and have been consistently over the last few years, but it takes time.

"We need that money from fares to be able to afford that investment."

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT), accused the Government of choosing to "snub rail passengers" by continuing to increase fares while fuel duty is frozen for a seventh consecutive year.

"The extra money that season ticket-holders will have to fork out this year is almost as much as drivers will save," he said.

"That doesn't seem fair to us or the millions of people who commute by train, especially as wages continue to stagnate. What's good enough for motorists should be good enough for rail passengers."

The Government uses the previous July's Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation to determine increases in regulated fares - 3.6% in 2017.

These are around half of all tickets and include season tickets on most commuter routes.

Train operating companies set the prices of other tickets but are bound by competition rules.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian times to improve services for passengers - providing faster and better, more comfortable trains with extra seats.

"This includes the first trains running though London on the Crossrail project, an entirely new Thameslink rail service and continuing work on the transformative Great North Rail Project.

"We keep fare prices under constant review and the price rises for this year are capped in line with inflation, with 97p out of every £1 paid going back into the railway."