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Rail fare hike under fire and out of step

PUBLISHED: 17:47 02 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:01 23 August 2010

ANGRY: Dr Hazel Dawe

ANGRY: Dr Hazel Dawe

A TRAIN operator has been criticised after announcing plans to raise fares when travellers elsewhere in the country will be benefiting from a price drop. Southeastern is set to increase ticket prices by up to 1.6 per cent in January. Government policy d

A TRAIN operator has been criticised after announcing plans to raise fares when travellers elsewhere in the country will be benefiting from a price drop.

Southeastern is set to increase ticket prices by up to 1.6 per cent in January.

Government policy dictates ticket prices are not allowed to rise by more than one per cent above the Retail Price Index (RPI). Because the RPI currently stands at minus 1.4 per cent, most of the country's rail operators will be cutting their fares by 0.4 per cent. But Southeastern has a higher cap of three per cent.

Dr Hazel Dawe, chairwoman of Kent Green Party, said: "We have the highest rail fares in the world. And in Kent we will not even benefit by the rail fares cut caused by the drop in inflation.

"The botched privatisation of our railways has not brought the consumer benefits we were promised. Kent's traffic congestion is a testament to the high cost of rail and bus fares and a general failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions."

Ticket prices are yet to be finalised but Southeastern says it is simply complying with the terms of its franchise agreement with the Department for Transport.

A spokesperson for Southeastern said: "It is the Government's stated policy to recoup more of the cost of rail services from those who use them and decrease the contribution from taxpayers. In line with this policy, the subsidy paid to Southeastern is decreasing over the lifetime of the franchise."

Critics have said the rises are to meet the cost of the high speed commuter service which runs through Ebbsfleet International Station but Southeastern says this is not the case.

A spokesperson said: "Metro and Mainline customers are not subsidising the high speed service. The cost of high speed fares is higher than mainline fares, as a supplement applies to the part of the journey that occurs on the High Speed 1 rail line between Ashford International and St Pancras International.

"The high speed link was funded over a decade ago by a combination of private sector investment and central government money.

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