Campaigners have called for the railway system to be “renationalised” after commuters were hit with the largest fare rise in five years.

Protestors gathered outside Watford Junction, Kings Langley and Bushey stations this morning as average ticket prices went up by 3.4 per cent on the first working day of 2018 - the largest rise since 2013.

A season ticket from Watford into London now costs £4,656, which is up by £716 after an increase of 32 per cent since 2010.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union handed out pieces of rock and chocolates to "sweeten the bitter pill" of the price increase this morning.

Stewart Cameron, branch secretary RMT at Watford, said passengers were “fed up” with paying “extortionate” amounts to get to work.

He said: "Today I'm here campaigning in regards to cutting fares and not staff.

“The profits are just going into private hands and we want this railway re-nationalised as soon as possible. People's wages are going down and fares are going up. How's that working?

“People are just fed up having to pay extortionate amounts going to work."

Jagtar Singh Dhindsa, the Labour candidate in this May’s mayoral elections in Watford, added

He said: “Another hike in rail fares has been announced but while the fares are rising, cuts are taking place across the entire rail network.

“This results in trains running late or being cancelled and so the trains need to be brought back into public ownership so they can be run for passengers not profit.

“That means fairer fares, investment in a 21st century railway and listening to passengers. For many people here, travelling by train isn’t a luxury; it’s how they get to work every day.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators, said "nobody wants to see fares going up" but insisted the increase is necessary to improve the network.

He told the Press Association: "All we can do is make sure we invest to improve as fast as we possibly can.

"We've had decades of under-investment which we are now addressing and have been consistently over the last few years, but it takes time.

"We need that money from fares to be able to afford that investment."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian times to improve services for passengers - providing faster and better, more comfortable trains with extra seats.

"This includes the first trains running though London on the Crossrail project, an entirely new Thameslink rail service and continuing work on the transformative Great North Rail Project.

"We keep fare prices under constant review and the price rises for this year are capped in line with inflation, with 97p out of every £1 paid going back into the railway."