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Campaigners slam 3.6% hike in Southeastern rail fares

PUBLISHED: 10:53 15 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:29 15 August 2017

Southeastern train

Southeastern train

Archant

The increase is based on a measure of inflation known as the Retail Price Index

Rail passengers in Kent, Bromley and Bexley will see fares rise by 3.6 per cent when price changes come into force in the new year.

The hike for regulated fares is based on a measure of inflation known as the Retail Price Index (RPI), published monthly by the Office for National Statistics.

The increase has been met with anger by campaigners, concerned that commuters in the region - particularly those using Southeastern’s high speed service - are already paying some of the highest season ticket prices in the country.

David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus, the independent transport user watchdog, said: “Yet again, passengers, now majority funders of the railway, face fare rises next January.

“Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score - just one third according to our latest survey.

“So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January.

“Why is the government not using its preferred measure of inflation: the one that is used to determine wages and pension increases, and one which is often lower than RPI? Why not use the Consumer Prices Index for rail fares too? Passengers deserve a fairer deal.”

A spokesperson for Southeastern said: “We understand that no one likes to see prices go up, especially season ticket holders.

“However, the government regulates annual fare increases to meet the costs of running Britain’s railways.

“For unregulated fares – including off-peak travel – we offer discounted ticket prices, special offers and promotional fares.

“Nearly 97p of every pound from train fares goes back into the rail industry for running and improving the network.

“Southeastern remains committed to making journeys better for passengers and has invested over £70m to improve train services and station facilities.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together train companies and Network Rail, added: “Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to season tickets.

“It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI.

“Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper.”

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce condemned the move, with the Labour MP saying, “These new rail fare rises are staggering with passengers continuously being asked to pay more and more while services continue to suffer with the same problems of overcrowding, delays and cancellations.

“Efficient and affordable public transport is key for our area to thrive yet we pay some of the highest fares in Europe. Since 2010 fares have increased twice as much as wages.

“I was proud to stand on a manifesto which committed a Labour government to bring the railways back into public ownership, freeze fares and introduce free Wi-Fi across the rail network. The current government need to get a grip on these rising fares and take urgent action to prioritise our public services over private profit.”

However, Tory MP for Dartford Gareth Johnson: said: “Nobody likes to pay more for their train ticket so it’s not surprising this inflationary rise has not been welcomed. Yet this rise is a far cry from the 11% increase we saw in the final year of the Labour government.”

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