Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Disappointing increases to train fares

It was announced today that train fares next year are going to go up across the country by an average 8%, i.e. RPI plus 3. I am really disappointed that yet again my commuting constituents are going to face astronomical fare rises, which is why, as the more generous local residents have recognised, I have long advocated a more favourable deal in the South East. I will say more about what I intend to do later in this post but first, while not apologising for the increase, I want to just address some of the more political points that are being made on this issue.

Most people who follow my commentary on various issues know that I understand that party politics tends to turn most of the electorate off and so I save my partisan points for the Chamber. However, it is important to note that this is not something the Coalition Government has just dreamt up; the formula of RPI plus 3 was introduced for Southeastern customers under the last Labour Government, while the rest of the country faced increases of only RPI plus 1. And yes, before someone says in the comments, I know we’ve been in Government for a year, but as most people also recognise we’ve taken the reins at a time that this country faces the largest deficit since the Second World War. I also acknowledge that in that time we’ve had High Speed 1 built, which is great if you live anywhere near the route and can afford the extra premium you pay as a customer to use. And maybe the increases are as a consequence of privatisation, but Labour had 13 years with large majorities in the Commons to renationalise the rail service and didn’t.

So now I’ve got that out of my system and hopefully put it in a bit of political context I would like it firmly placed on the record that I don’t agree that Southeastern customers should be continuing to pay the plus 3 formula. I think commuters across Kent and neighbouring counties have paid their fair share. Any future investment in nationwide rail services should be paid for by other train users. If the South East commuters paid for HS1 then why should they now be asked to stump up for HS2? In my view they shouldn’t. The money Southeastern get from the commuters already should be enough for investment in stations, rolling stock etc but the main thing constituents ask me for is simply a better service. They want a service that gets them to their destination on time (preferably with a seat), stops at the stations it is scheduled to stop at, that the staff are polite, and that the toilets are clean. If five years of the highest increases in train fares in the country cannot deliver that then we have more than a problem of simply being an additional squeeze on the wallets of commuters.

Train operating companies have some leeway in how they implement their fare increases and I will be writing to the Chief Executive to ask for some leniency in how the fares are increased on various routes. I know people will read this beyond my constituency boundaries, and I apologise that this may impact you adversely, but I will be making representations for consideration to be given to lower increases for those travelling from stations in my constituency. I will also be making further representations to Government Ministers to try and ensure that the plus 3 formula is reduced in the South East before other parts of the country – we’ve paid our fair share and now it is time for a fair fare.


David Miles said…

Thanks for taking the time to both write this and support the beleagured commuter, it really is appreciated. Turning to the announcements of today, I cannot understand what the government and notably Villiers are thinking, in this time of cutbacks, salary freezes and with the possibility of recession not yet over, how this reflects Cameron's 'We're all in this together' edict I do not know. What I do know is that to work in London and to travel in from Medway Valley now commands a minimum increase over a local salary of at least 8k … just to cover the travel costs … and even then this is paying for a service that is frequently delayed or cancelled, more often than not with filthy rolling stock that you would not want to spend any longer than necessary in and staffed by employees who are plain rude – all this is further reflected in the management who are only interested in profit and refuse to accept any criticism of the service.

I am intrigued as to the improvements that Villiers spoke of onthe BBC and I am certain that you will press to both hear what these are and a timetable for their implementation

Thanks thus far for your support and let's see what happens over the coming months

Andy Griffin said…

A very good article Tracey and agree with you that SOuth Eastern commuters appear to be hit the hardest and most often. In fact I have heard quite a few people say that the price increase could well price them out of rail travel for commuting. This is quite a shocking state of affairs especially with the down turn in the economy.

Any help or pressure you can apply through Parliament would be greatly welcomed and appreciated by the South Eastern commuters.

Gary Williams said…

great post and thanks for taking this up. Last year Miadstone saw 13% fare hikes and a minimum of 8% in Jan? That is pricing people off trains.

As David said – Just when are we going to see the improvements that have been promised? Of course, Southeastern will point to the improved figures but the figures don't tell the whole story. Inside those figures are lots of disgusting, dirty trains, rude staff, congestion at London Bridge, Faulty train doors and apathetic management.

Southeastern needs to be monitored by a proper independent body that exists solely for passenger interests. Passenger Focus and London travelwatch can't do more than drop a note to the ToC – I can do that too – They are useless.

Garry Gibson said…

This is the final nail in the coffin for me. After 10 years of working in London it is no longer financially viable, and I'm actively looking for a job nearer home.

Considering both the recent slowdown in London salary rises and the yearly fleecing by Southeastern, the numbers are actually favouring local jobs now.

The worst part is the lack of alternative. There is no other viable way of getting into London from Kent and SE know it.

Every day when I hear the 'Thankyou for choosing Southeastern' automated announcement I quietly rage inside.

Rob Newton said…

The thing is Tracy, your party campaigned against this issue in 2010 yet when in power you're doing the opposite…


Indeed your colleague Rehman Chisti made a major point in going head to head with former Gillingham and Rainham, and transport minister Paul Clark, on this very issue. I remember him campaigning outside Gillingham station – yet I don't hear anything from him these days now he's been elected.

Add these increases to the rising cost of utilities, food, VAT, petrol etc, etc and soon, many commuters simply won't be able to afford to travel to London.

I don't need to mention the debacle last winter nor the poor performance from Southeastern to get trains to arrive on time.

Looking forward to seeing Tory MP's in Kent standing up in Parliament addressing these issues.

Rob Newton said…

I would also like to point out how young people, starting out in their careers, will be able to justify this expense?

Youth unemployment is already around the 20% mark nationally according to news reports.

I'm lucky i can either get a 0% interest credit card to cover the season ticket cost or an interest free loan from my employer.

However, when i started out commuting to London i couldn't afford either, and that was when it was about £2k cheaper.

I simply can't see how anyone in power is actually thinking any of this through. And if you deny young people opportunities you only have to see the events of the last few weeks to realise the consequences.

Anonymous said…

Disappointing is not the word !!!
It is outageous and scandalous !
I suppose that you will also described as disappointing the rise
in Electricity and Gas prices annouced in July.
What is this Government doing to help the millions of people who, through no fault at all of their own, are paying for the pure greed of our greddy Energy Suppliers, the Dishonesty of our Political Class and the irresponsible and dishonest actions of our Bankers.
Why do any Government (be it right or left) always do as the financial powers are telling them ???
Banks Profits are always privatised with the benediction of the Political power in place and massive bonusses, fat and juicy pension plans are allowed and when they create a financial Tsunami like in 2008, we the Paxpayers must bail them out and 3 years later, it is getting no better.
Is there a secret collusion between the Politic system and the Financial system ???

Regards / Daniel Klein
Company Owner in Snodland

Anonymous said…

only one way to deal with this and thats to pass a law that no prices rises for a year and then only with inflation , and then like the man on the street , they have to manage better ,then expecting the public to keep there profits up ,while we have to suffer ,as there are some in this country will never know what hard times are in any way shape or form