Commuters pay the price as rail fares set to rise

Hastings Station
Hastings Station

CAMPAIGNERS say planned rail improvements ‘take the sting’ out of a hike in fares announced this week - but many commuters are fed up with the increases.

Rail users will have to pay on average 8 per cent more for travel as of the new year, it emerged as inflation figures were announced on Tuesday.

An annual season ticket from Hastings to London is likely to rise from £4,152 to almost £4,500 in January, further stretching those who have no option but to use the train.

Sarah Boundy, spokesman for Southeastern Railway, one of the two companies operating out of Hastings, said: “We recognise no one likes to pay more, and fare increases are always unpopular. But the cost of season ticket fares are directly regulated by the Government. It’s their stated policy that passengers should pay more towards the cost of their journey and taxpayers contribute less.”

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), argues that the increase in fares is necessary to ensure that investment in the network continues.

Martin Woodfine, founder member of St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme (SHRIMP) said that despite the increase the future is looking positive for rail users in this area.

He said: “The Government and Network Rail are committed to making improvements over the next couple of years which will take the sting out of the rise.

“Once planned developments to infrastructure are in place, there will be no excuse for rail companies not to improve the service.”

He also said that for the sake of rail users it would be important to be able to see clearly how the fare increases were broken down on a route by route basis.

The Government has recently changed the way that annual price rises are calculated, shifting from inflation plus one per cent, to inflation plus three per cent.

Tuesday’s announcement revealed that the inflation rate for July 2011 is at five per cent, resulting in an eight per cent increase on regulated rail fares, which includes season tickets.

This figure is an average, and fares on some routes may increase by up to a further five per cent.

There was a mixed reaction to the news of the fare increase from commuters at Hastings station. Several people commiserated with season ticket holders.

Penny Pollard, 63, an administrator from Fairlight, said: “I feel so sorry for those who have to commute to London, as it’s a big jump and they have no choice but to pay it.”

Sean Mcgeever, who travels in to Hastings regularly from Lewes, said that he would definitely feel the brunt of the fare increase, and described it as “excessive”.

Others however, did not feel as strongly. Leanne Kelly, 21, of St Paul’s Place, said: “I didn’t even know about the increase. I don’t take the train very often, but when we do it’s a good service and seems like value for money.”