Labour transport chief's rail fares protest scuppered after Virgin train breaks down

2 January 2018, 13:58

Labour's transport chief has been stuck on a broken down train - on his way to a protest about rail fare rises.

Andy McDonald had taken part in a demonstration outside King's Cross earlier on Tuesday and was hoping to spend the day touring similar protests at other railway stations.

He said the Virgin East Coast service he was on suffered a "complete loss of power, just like this awful Tory government".

The shadow transport secretary highlighted the irony of the 9:56am service from Stevenage to Leeds grinding to a halt just outside Grantham on the same day train fares increased by an average 3.4%.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is on a trip to Qatar meeting senior politicians in the Gulf state.

Mr McDonald's train was due to pull in at 11:50am, so he could join some of the 40 groups outside stations across the country protesting fare hikes.

But instead a power outage brought it to a sudden halt - leaving passengers on board stuck for almost two hours.

Virgin was forced to scramble a "rescue locomotive" to tow the train to the next station, but other services faced knock-on delays or cancellations.

In a video message recorded from a vestibule on the scuppered service, 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.

"So it's run out of power, a little bit like the Tories."

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"But this is on the same line that's had the benefit of a £2bn payout in the last few weeks and of course it comes hot on the heels of a 3.6% increase in fares for the travelling public.

"If anything demonstrated how broken this system is it's this."

He added Labour would continue with its campaign to re-nationalise the railways "so that they work for the many, not the few".

Fares will rise on average 3.4% but season tickets face a 3.6% hike.

Virgin did not respond to a request for comment.

It came hours after the company was also forced to apologise for appearing to mock a customer who complained that a train guard called her "honey".

When Emily Cole voiced frustration on social media, the Virgin account replied: "Sorry for the mess up, Emily. Would you prefer 'pet' or 'love' next time?"

The firm later deleted the post and said: "We apologise unreservedly for this tweet and for the offence caused. To avoid causing more offence we have deleted the original post."