Tonbridge commuters are facing potential extra costs of up to £1,152 per year, according to a rail industry user group set up to represent the interests of town travellers.
Tonbridge Line Commuters (TLC) is calling on Transport for London (TfL) to review changes to rail routes that are being affected by the London Bridge improvements.
According to the group, Southeastern trains has notified customers that works at London Bridge over the next year mean those travelling outside the peak rush hour cannot go directly to Cannon Street with ordinary season tickets or off-peak day returns.
The commuter body believes that from September 4, city workers will either be forced to take a longer route or pay extra in order to complete their journey. It also claims the changes will add up to 30 minutes to the travelling times each way.
TLC is demanding urgent action is taken following Southeastern’s announcement that passengers will not be able to use their normal tickets on the underground between London Bridge and Bank. If this were permitted, passengers would then only have a short walk to Cannon Street and the City.
TfL claims it has worked hard to create a solution to the problem, but the commuter group believes the impact on passengers has not been fully considered, particularly as mainline rail services between London Bridge and Cannon Street are to be axed during the planned improvement works.
John Reynolds, Vice Chairman of Tonbridge Line Commuters, explained that Southeastern had advised passengers unable to take a direct train to Cannon Street to stay on a train to Charing Cross.
They should then walk to Embankment underground station and take the District and Circle Line to Cannon Street. This adds 20 minutes to a journey, compared with five minutes on the Northern Line tube to Bank.
He said that passengers had also been told by Southeastern that walking or taking buses was another option.
Mr Reynolds said: “We invite TfL and its industry partners to seize the opportunity of doing the right thing for passengers, who are already paying £4,016 a year for this journey.”
The group has called for tickets to be accepted on the Northern line between London Bridge and Bank at least during off-peak hours, when there are no trains between West Kent and Cannon Street.
Tonbridge & Malling MP Tom Tugendhat said he had already raised the issue with the Rail Minister and would do so again, adding that the ‘Government must understand the importance of rail connections to London from our area’.
A Transport for London spokesperson explained that while they were not allowing people without a London Underground ticket to enter and exit at Bank and Monument, passengers were still able to travel via Bank using the circle and district/Northern Line, providing they enter or exit at London Bridge and Cannon Street.
The spokesperson said: “While Thameslink works are taking place, we’ve worked with the DfT and Network Rail to help ensure that passengers aren’t out of pocket if they need to make extra Tube or bus trips to get to their destination. We’ve agreed and will accept Southeastern customers on certain tube and bus services at no cost to them, even if their Southeastern ticket isn’t valid on those services. The Tube routes available have been chosen to ensure everyone can get where they need to go but without bringing hundreds of additional passengers into stations that are already very busy at certain times of day.”