WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Ticket protest by rail passengers

Passengers wearing cattle masks and brandishing fake tickets in protest at First Great Western's (FGW) 'late, overcrowded and expensive train service' (The Times, 28 January), dramatically highlighted the rail operator's reputation as the 'worst train firm in Britain' (The Sun, 29 January).

The event, organised by More Train Less Strain (MTLS) at 20 stations in the West Country, was described as 'well-organised - in comparison to FGW's response' (Dickon Hooper, BBC News, 28 January). MTLS spokesman Peter Andrews called on transport secretary Ruth Kelly to resolve the problems. 

FGW insisted that less than 100 out of 100,000 passengers using their 1,350 services had refused to pay fares. However, spokesman Andrew Griffith admitted: 'FGW accepts it has failed to deliver an appropriate level of service and is taking steps to improve its service and offer enhanced compensation' (Swindon Advertiser, 29 January).

The compensation offer that followed a national passenger survey putting FGW at the bottom, was dismissed by MTLS as 'a stunt to try to head off Monday's action' (Evening Standard, 29 January).

Based on 19 items from 22 - 29 January 2008.

Analysis conducted by Echo Research from data supplied to PRWeek from NewsNow.


Much of blogosphere discussions around the protest focused on whether people had actually seen any protestors at the local train stations they use. The papers, obviously, gave an overview of the issue so it was left to the blogosphere to trade specific stories about FGW. Away from the obvious late and overcrowded angle in the papers, the blogs painted a more colourful picture. Most notable was a PA announcement that in spite of having an entire kitchen of hot food available - some of it even freshly cooked - they couldn't sell any of it because they'd ran out of the paper carrier bags, this contravening health and safety.

Whilst the papers focused on the words of FGW spokespeople, the blogs concerned themselves with describing how well FGW representatives got themselves in the background view of almost every camera angle shot.

Many acknowledged it was a sad decline from the early glory years of British rail transport. One suggested the young Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who mused that, one day, men would be able to travel from London to Bristol at 40 miles per hour, sipping a cup of tea, would probably be disappointed that around 150 years later neither of these seem particularly likely on FGW.

It wasn't just the past that was being compared in the blogs, foreign expats got in on the act, pointing out to the folks back home had nothing to complain about compared to what the Brits go through with commuting via train.

Sourced from over 70 million blogs by Nielsen Online www.nielsen-online.com

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