Sadiq Khan calls on government to defy planned ticket price hike and freeze suburban rail fares in north Kent, Bromley and Bexley
PUBLISHED: 14:55 03 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:55 03 November 2016
The mayor of London reiterated his call for TfL to take control of a number of services, with Southeastern top of his list
The mayor of London has called for the government to impose a fare freeze on suburban rail lines in north Kent, Bromley and Bexley next year.
Sadiq Khan has warned of a backlash from “long-suffering” passengers on the outskirts of the capital if a planned January ticket price hike goes ahead.
Pay as you go (PAYG) fares in the capital are regulated - which means annual increases are linked to July’s Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was 1.9 per cent.
But train companies are allowed to raise fares by 10p rather than RPI, which the mayor’s office said was a “government loophole” which could lead to increases of up to five per cent on some journeys next year.
Passengers on Southern services have suffered months of disruption caused by strikes over changes to the role of conductors and high levels of staff sickness.
Mr Khan said: “For far too long, Londoners using our suburban rail routes have been getting a terrible service with delays, overcrowding and cancellations becoming the norm.
“Commuters will understandably be furious when they hear that fares on some routes face being hiked by another five per cent this January. It’s another kick in the teeth for long-suffering rail passengers.
“The government should say enough is enough, and make these train operating companies match my TfL fares freeze on London’s suburban rail lines next year.
“Given the poor level of service, it’s simply unacceptable for the government to stand by and let fares increase by up to a staggering 10 per cent on some of the lines in just over a year.
“I’m calling on Londoners to heap pressure on the government and the train operating companies to finally show they’re on the side of passengers.”
Mr Khan again reiterated his proposals to allow TfL to take responsibility for services that start and end in or near London when current franchises are up for renewal.
The first franchise that would come under the mayor’s control would be suburban services run by Southeastern - which operates the majority of services in Kent - in 2018.
Earlier this year, Southeastern was ranked as one of the worst services for passenger satisfaction.
Southern and Thameslink services, which also run in the region, would not be transferred until 2021.
Kent County Council’s transport chief, Matthew Balfour, was among those to offer support for the plans, which would extend Oyster and contactless payments to stations in Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Northfleet, Gravesend, Dunton Green, and Sevenoaks.
Southeastern bosses declined to comment on Mr Khan’s proposals and referred us to the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators nationwide.
Chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Under long-standing government regulations, if the cost of any single rail journey in London rises, the price goes up in units of 10p, saving passengers having to find coppers at ticket machines - which may in some cases be higher than the RPI-limited increase across all fares.
“Money from fares - 97p in every £1 - goes back into running and improving services, supporting major investment to upgrade the railway.”
A Department for Transport spokesman added: “Wages are growing faster than train ticket prices thanks to action by the government.
“Most commuter fares from London are regulated, and these have been capped in line with inflation until 2020.”