COMMUTERS voiced their anger over steep hikes in rail fares yesterday as protests were mounted in York and 40 other UK stations.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell, the shadow rail minister, took the train from York to Newcastle Central to speak to users, who face an average fare rise nationally of 3.4 per cent, the highest in seven years.

She said: “The people I spoke with are very frustrated and angry at such steep fare rises that start today. It is hard enough for people at the moment, let alone paying more to travel to work.

“People were very aware of the issue after the media coverage and supported the protest.

“They are angry that they are having to fork out more, but they are not seeing that money being invested in the rail services; it is going into private profits.

“It is a national disgrace that the rail companies are being subsidised by the public.”

Ms Maskell said the protests, which also saw Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for York Outer, Fiona Derbyshire, at Poppleton station and Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald in Leeds, had raised awareness.

She said she would be lobbying in Parliament to keep up the pressure.

Mr McDonald’s tour of the fare protests was halted when his Virgin Trains East Coast train lost power in Granthan, between Stevenage and Leeds.

The incident caused major disruption to journeys between Peterborough and Grantham and the line on to York, with passengers warned that services could be delayed by up to one-and-a-half hours.

Mr McDonald said: “My day of campaigning for a publicly-owned railway has been interrupted today because of the breakdown of this Virgin Train as I head to Leeds."

Northern Rail, which runs trains to Harrogate, Selby and Hull from York, has the highest rise of all rail companies, at 4.7 per cent.

The increase at TransPennine Express, which runs trains from York to Leeds, Manchester, Malton and Scarborough, is 4.6 per cent, and the hike for CrossCountry long distance trains to central and south-west England is 4.1 per cent.