Surprise price hikes hit train passengers

    SOUTHEASTERN have been accused of ‘sneaking through’ a rise in their fares after they neglected to inform passengers of the price change that began on Sunday.

    The rail operator has implemented a 3.4 per cent or 10p increase on off-peak fares, whichever is the greatest.

    An off-peak day return from Tonbridge to Tunbridge Wells now costs £4.20, (previously £4.10). To London terminals, it is now £14.20, rising from £13.70.

    Passengers were not told of the decision beforehand but Southeastern said it did not ‘routinely announce fare rises’.

    Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Sneaking through fare hikes without an official announcement is an appallingly high-handed way to treat passengers.

    “It’s bad enough that Southeastern passengers have had to put up with years of peak fare rises while wages stagnate, but more back-door fare increases are unacceptable.

    “We’re urging passengers to respond to the current South Eastern franchise consultation and tell the Government that enough is enough, and passengers deserve proper value for money on their journeys.”

    A Southeastern spokesman said: “We understand no one likes to see fares increase but sometimes it is necessary to adjust our prices. We keep fare increases to a minimum and have frozen some fares for the past three years.”

    Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has previously described services on the network as ‘unacceptably poor for far too long’, adding that passengers ‘deserve better’.

    Southeastern’s contract to operate the line runs out in December 2018. A Department for Transport consultation on a new franchise closes on May 23.

    Direct line to Gatwick?

    Kent’s rail bosses are encouraging the Government to develop a link between Gatwick and the west of the county.

    At its annual rail summit at County Hall earlier this month Stephen Gasche, the main transport planner for rail at KCC said they had been pushing for an inter-regional service linking the Reading to Gatwick service with a service that carries on to Ashford, via Edenbridge and Tonbridge.