COMMUTERS endured a tough start to the year after disruption further marred a day which saw the largest fare rise in five years.

The cost of an annual season ticket between Oxford and London rose above £5,000 for the first time as fare rose by an 3.4 per cent.

Protests took place across the country, including one organised by the Oxford Labour group at Oxford Station.

More than 750 leaflets were handed out as commuters shared their frustrations over the rise on a morning further marred by delays and cancellations on the railway.

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Oxford East MP, Anneliese Dodds, said: “It is pricing more and more people out of travelling by train, and putting more pressure on all those people from Oxford who have to commute regularly to and from work.

“We need a rail network run in the interests of the public; and the vast majority of people now feel that means public ownership, with over three quarters supporting this.”

Labour city councillor Dan Iley-Williamson, who led the protest, said: “Passengers are being totally ripped off, and it’s not like they are getting a better service year on year.

“Across Europe we have some of the highest fares - it has to change.”

Emily Brown, who commutes daily from Banbury to Oxford, had few complaints about the service and its punctuality but said it wasn’t improving despite the rise.

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She said: “The service is broadly good and it’s only a short distance.

“But when you are sitting on the floor in the carriage near the toilet on a Friday evening because there’s no space, you wonder where that extra money is going.”

Another Banbury to Oxford commuter, kitchen designer Emma Godfrey, said: “It’s annoying - the fares are going up but the services are not necessarily getting any better.

“On the day the increase comes in we still had delays and cancellations, it’s not great.”

The 8.10am from Didcot Parkway to London Paddington was cancelled while Cross Country services between Oxford and Banbury were delayed throughout the morning due to a fallen tree near Coventry.

But new trains entered service for the first time yesterday as part of Network Rail’s planned electrification project.

Great Western Railway’s electric Electrostar trains operated from Didcot Parkway for the first time boasting more seats and tables.

The trains can only run between Didcot Parkway and London Paddington, though, as the electrification to Oxford has been postponed.

A new fleet of Intercity Express Trains running between Great Malvern, Worcester, Oxford and London.

But the bi-mode trains will switch to diesel engine while travelling through Oxford due to delays to electrification.

Richard Scrase, a video producer who lives in Cowley and works in the capital, said new trains were not enough.

He said: “I commute from Oxford to London but I also use the coach quite a lot as it’s a quarter of the price.

“Over the past decade I’ve been using the trains, there’s been no improvement.

“There have been new trains introduced but wouldn’t you expect that, in that time the coach has upgraded and has new wifi but we are not paying for that.”

Rail bosses, including Network Rail and operators GWR, said major improvements were being brought forward for passengers.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “We all share the objective of wanting to keep fares as low as possible.

“I’m not responsible for setting fares. My job is to make sure that the money we are given is spent as efficiently as possible and on the best possible projects.”

GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “Today marks a massive step towards delivering the capacity improvements we have promised, and the most significant series of improvements for rail passengers in a generation.”