CHILTERN Railways passengers have deluged train company bosses with angry complaints following a series of cancellations due to staff shortages.

As price rises of 3.2 per cent for next year were announced on some fares, passengers demanded improvements.

During the past fortnight there have been a series of cancellations - many at short notice - and Chiltern bosses pledged the situation would be addressed.

Rail commuters have faced a tough time in recent months including the closure of Oxford station for major engineering works and delays caused by overheating tracks.

Arriva-owned Chiltern, which runs trains from Oxford Parkway to London Marylebone, staged a 'Tweet the manager' session for passengers yesterday, who were quick to outline their concerns.

Passenger Chris Bates said: "Can you advise your customers of the root cause(s) of the recent spate of daily multi-cancellations please? Started off affecting weekends but last couple if weeks has spilled over into weekdays."

The company responded: "We have had a higher level of cancellations recently and are completely focused on returning our service levels to the industry-leading position we are proud to have a reputation for. This is our number one priority at present and are completely focused on improving this area."

The unavailability of train crews this month has led to repeated cancellations, prompting passengers to tweet their concerns .

Dissatisfaction with the service coincided with the announcement yesterday that the cost of regulated rail fares will increase by 3.2 per cent next year.

Chiltern Railways faces competition from Great Western Railway, which runs trains from Oxford station to London Paddington.

Oxford-based transport expert Hugh Jaeger, a former London Underground train driver, said: "There have been a series of cancellations on Chiltern trains and the company has not properly explained the reason.

"Passengers will not be happy with a reduction in service, combined with rising fares, and they will seek alternatives - some passengers will simply have to carry on because of where they live while others will look at travelling with GWR instead from Oxford to Paddington, or driving.

"Chiltern needs to address this issue as soon as possible."

Chiltern Railways passenger David Budden, from Bicester, who works for a firm supplying BMW Mini, said: "I have been receiving texts about the cancellations.

"Generally I think Chiltern is a good operator and the last time I went from Bicester Village to London Marylebone the service was on time."

About 40 per cent of fares will rise by 3.2 per cent amount in January, including season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and Anytime tickets around major cities.

The price of these fares is controlled by the Government, which uses the July Retail Price Index measure of inflation - announced by the Office for National Statistics - to determine the cap on the annual increase.

Many long-distance commuters will see the annual cost of getting to work increase by £150.

GWR said an Oxford to London Paddington season ticket costs £5,096 or 15.9 pence per mile. This is expected to increase by 3.2 per cent or an extra 45 pence per day.

Spokesman James Davis said: "The money raised by Government through fares ensures investment in more trains, better stations and faster services.

"This investment has already delivered new trains in London and the Thames Valley; and is delivering our new Intercity Express Trains, replacing decade-old High Speed Trains – providing more seats, more reliable services, and with planned timetable improvements, more frequent and quicker journeys."

Chiltern Railways' punctuality rate for June 24 to July 21 was 91.5 per cent while GWR's was 78.5 per cent.

GWR offers over 1,500 services every day, covering over 10 counties and south Wales.

Major engineering works took place on the network around Oxford between July 7 and July 22.

Chiltern Railways spokesman Jonathan Holdcroft said: "We share passengers’ frustrations about recent short-notice alterations to our timetable which have been caused by issues including hot-weather-related infrastructure maintenance, external factors beyond our control and also driver availability, an issue which doesn’t normally affect our services.

"We are keen to maintain passengers’ confidence in the service we offer which is why we are investing in more drivers as well as improving trains and stations across our network."