December 11 2013 Latest news:
By Marijke Cox, Reporter
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Campaigners urge commuters to write to their MPs to demand a reduction
Commuters face staggering price hikes of around £200 on annual season tickets following the Government’s announcement of yet another inflation-busting rise.
And things could get even worse for the borough’s hard hit commuters if rail operator Southeastern chooses to push the 6.2 per cent increase up by even more.
Next January’s fares will be based on July’s inflation of 3.2 per cent plus three per cent, but operators are allowed to up the ticket cost on popular routes by an additional five per cent as long as they impose lower increases elsewhere and the overall average increase across the county remains at 6.2 per cent.
In the worst case scenario it could mean some annual tickets on routes between west Kent towns and London being hit with a massive 11.2 per cent hike, amounting to a staggering £426 rise on standard rail and £525 on high speed from some districts.
Southeastern has not yet confirmed what the increases will be.
But under the latest pricing formula of 6.2 per cent, commuters using Maidstone station to reach the city from January 2013 are likely to see season ticket costs on the standard service rise by £235 to £4,039 and for high speed by £290 to £4,982.
If Southeastern chooses to up prices by the maximum 11.2 per cent, it will be an extra £426 and £525 respectively on top of current fares.
For those using Sevenoaks station, costs will rise by £184 to £3,164 on a regular season ticket to London stations. If costs rocket by 11.2 per cent it will be an extra £333 on the current fare.
Tonbridge passengers will see a rise of £223 on regular annual tickets pushing fares up to £3,831 and on high speed by £341 to £5,845.
Under an 11.2 per cent increase, they would increase by £404 and £616 respectively.
Dartford commuters are likely to see an increase of £131 pushing regular season ticket prices up to £2,255 and by £247 to £4,243 on high speed. Gravesend is likely to be similar.
With an 11.2 per cent increase these price rises could rocket to £331 and £447 respectively.
The only hope is the operator will keep increases down on some of east Kent’s lines to balance out the county’s overall average rise.
Southeastern said the Government decided on the pricing formula, and stressed it was too early for the operator to say whether any tickets prices would be hit by the maximum 11.2 per cent increase.
A spokeswoman said fares would be announced towards the end of the year.
Campaigns officer for Kent Green Party Dr Hazel Dawe, who commutes from Tonbridge to London every day, said rail commuters can expect a huge hit in January of perhaps nine or 10 per cent.
“Overcrowded trains, bad air conditioning, stinking toilets and cramped seating are all features of rail travel which we pay more for each year,” she said.
“Our rail fares are about 40 per cent above the European average and are the highest in the world.
“Kent Green Party urges everybody to write to their MPs and demand reductions in rail fares.”
Protest group Campaign for Better Transport has argued that a number of commuters are likely to see their annual season ticket rise by more than £1,000 between 2011 and 2015.
Chief executive Stephen Joseph said: “If rail fares are allowed to gallop ahead like this, many commuters to London will soon be paying as much to travel to work as they do in income tax.”
County Hall chiefs have also expressed serious concern at the proposed increases.
Kent County Council’s cabinet member for transport Cllr Bryan Sweetland said: “We recognise that the Government has decided to raise rail fares by the level of inflation plus three per cent and that this is not a decision taken by the rail operator, Southeastern.
“However, we are concerned at the serious impact this will have on families in Kent, at a time when household budgets are very tight.
“Any further increase, on top of the proposed 6.2 per cent would be totally unacceptable.
“KCC urges Southeastern not to impose any higher increases on top of the basic nationwide increase of inflation plus three per cent.
“We eventually want to see no increase in rail fares above the level of inflation.”
The Government has argued that the hike is due to its policy to increase the amount paid by passengers to decrease the subsidy paid by the taxpayer.
Chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) Michael Roberts said it was the Government that sets the average of commuter ticket prices.
“Any flexibility train companies have within the rules is to maximise revenue for the Government.”