Page last updated at 21:33 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Protest over train fare increases

Dr Caroline Lucas, Berkshire Green MEP,
Passengers at the town's station were asked to sign a petition

A protest over rising train fares has been held in Berkshire.

Reading Green Party members asked passengers at the town's station to sign a petition which will be handed to the station's manager.

The move comes after rail fares rose across the UK in January by an average of more than 6%.

Train firms say more money will allow greater investment and the government said it had already committed 15bn to support the railways.

'Ratchet up prices'

Earlier, Dr Caroline Lucas, Berkshire Green MEP, said: "The government admits it will cost 500m per year to bring commuter fares in line with the rest of Europe, but its spending on road maintenance and widening is currently three times this amount.

"Can the government really say it is committed to encouraging people to switch from cars to public transport?"

Standing outside Reading Railway Station, she added: "It [the protest] is a culmination of a number of different ways of trying to lobby the government, put pressure on the government to think again about the kind of prices rises that we are seeing.

"We want the government to step in and say that railways are public services that should be invested in - not allowing the private railway company's simply to ratchet up the prices."

The Department for Transport said the government had committed 15bn to support the railways in the next five years - including a 10bn investment to increase capacity.

The Association of Train Operating Companies blamed the rises partly because taxpayer funding was being reduced.

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