More pain on the train as ticket prices in­crease

COunt­ing cOsts

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Cash-strapped Commuters - By Paul Fran­cis

Rail pas­sen­gers in Ash­ford face more pain next year with sea­son ticket prices and other fares set to rise on av­er­age by 3.5%.

Of­fi­cial in­fla­tion fig­ures used to cal­cu­late fare in­creases were pub­lished this week.

The Re­tail Prices In­dex (RPI) mea­sure of in­fla­tion for July was 2.5%, down from 2.6% in June, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics.

Reg­u­lated train fares,which in­clude sea­son tick­ets, can rise by RPI plus 1%.

The hike for 2015 will be marginally lower than this year but that is un­likely to ap­pease hard-press com­muters.

Martin Abrams, of the Campaign for Bet­ter Trans­port, said: “With peo­ple’s wages stag­nat­ing, and in some cases fall­ing, the ex­pense of tak­ing the train to work has be­come a huge part of liv­ing costs. If the gov­ern­ment doesn’t put an end to above-in­fla­tion fare in­creases quickly, or­di­nary com­muters will be priced off the train and could be forced into ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sions such as mov­ing house or quit­ting their jobs.”

Ash­ford MP Damian Green ac­knowl­edged the bur­den on com­muters, say­ing he wanted an end to above-in­fla­tion rises. He urged the Chan­cel­lor to scrap the ad­di­tional 1% on fares, as the gov­ern­ment did last year.

“The era of above-in­fla­tion rises needs to come to an end. Rail trav­ellers are be­ing stretched to their lim­its. Higher fares ought to be ac­com­pa­nied by more re­li­able ser­vices. Ser­vices that are un­re­li­able are not ac­cept­able. I do think peo­ple are more will­ing to pay for pre­mium ser­vices like High Speed One be­cause it is re­li­able.”

Michael Roberts, chief of The Rail De­liv­ery Group, which rep­re­sents train com­pa­nies in­clud­ing South­east­ern and South­ern, said: “Gov­ern­ment de­cides the av­er­age change to reg­u­lated fares, in­clud­ing sea­son tick­ets, each year. For a decade, suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have reg­u­lated com­muter fares so as to in­crease the share of rail’s costs paid by pas­sen­gers rather than tax­pay­ers.”

The for­mula also al­lows train com­pa­nies to raise reg­u­lated fares by a fur­ther 2% un­der the flex rule. A 3.5% in­crease would see the price of a trav­el­card an­nual sea­son ticket from Ash­ford to Lon­don, which in­cludes High Speed One, rise by £206 to £6,119.

The cost of a year­long stan­dard sea­son ticket, which ex­cludes High Speed One ser­vices, would in­crease by £195 to £5,754.

For a sea­son ticket ex­clud­ing use of the un­der­ground, the cost would in­crease by £178 to £5,102.

The cost of a stan­dard sea­son ticket from Folke­stone, ex­clud­ing High Speed One, would in­crease by £173 to £5,158.

For a yearly sea­son ticket in­clud­ing High Speed One ser­vices, the cost would rise to £6,142.

Kent com­muters were faced with a lower than ex­pected in­crease on reg­u­lated fares this year af­ter South­east­ern de­cided to peg back av­er­age in­creases to 2.8%.

With an elec­tion loom­ing, the gov­ern­ment could be look­ing for ways to spare rail trav­ellers be­ing stung by large hikes in sea­son tick­ets.

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@ thek­m­group.co.uk

Damian Green MP

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