SOUTHEND’S Labour party took to stations across the town opposing the latest increase in rail fees.

Councillors and candidates unveiled banners and mocked-up newspapers headlined ‘Tory Rail Rip Off’ as they spoke to commuters outside stations across Southend.

Fares are being increased by 3.1 per cent nationally, with a season ticket from Chalkwell to London now costing £3,516 a year, and £5,008 a year from Southend Victoria to Fenchurch Street.

The Southend protest was part of a national campaign, which saw passenger groups and trades unions protest outside stations across the country.

Leigh resident, Mike Flynn, 28, commutes to London five days a week to work in insurance and is far from unimpressed.

He said: “It is frustrating, of course it is never a surprise, you know it is coming ever year but it is disappointing.

“I am lucky enough to have quite a good wage, but it is a lot of money to pay in a chunk or every month, I have a lot of friends who work in the city and earn a lot less, and they do struggle some times.

“How can it be fair that everyone works for a living, but then loses such a large chunk by just travelling. And that is before we mention any cancelled trains or delays.”

Essex Labour MEP Alex Mayer slammed a 36 per cent price hike since 2010.

She said: “Give commuters a break. Surely after the delays, cancellations and overcrowding on the railways last year, the Government should not be allowing fares to increase faster than many people’s wages. We need to be encouraging people onto trains not putting obstacles in the way.

“It is time to learn from Europe. Startlingly it costs more for the 41 mile commute from Southend Victoria to London than it does to travel across the whole German rail network.

“The Government could have used its power to cap regulated fares, instead they have let train companies off the hook and failed to stand up for passengers.

“Labour would bring our railways into public ownership, this would mean capped fares, more reliable services and more investment. It’s time to put passengers first, not profits.”

Aston Line, Labour candidate for Chalkwell ward, said: “Many of the residents in Chalkwell are commuters, and from speaking with them this morning I can tell that they feel aggrieved with yet another fare increase despite no improvements in service.

“Season tickets from Chalkwell to London are now £3,516 a year; this is a considerable proportion of wages for some people.

“We need to bring down the cost of fares so that residents can spend more of this money supporting local businesses, instead of lining the pockets of large rail companies.”

Laurie Burton, Labour councillor for Blenheim ward, said: “When the railways were privatised we were promised that competition would bring down fares.

“In fact, the opposite has happened and UK rail fares are the most expensive in Europe. It’s time for railways to be returned to public ownership so that money from tickets is reinvested in improvements.”