Rail fare 
increases ‘absolutely criminal’

THE national increase in rail fares which could push the price of some Hastings to London season tickets over £6,000 from January 2014 has been condemned by local rail campaigners.

Ray Chapman, of East Sussex Rail Alliance, described the average 4.1 per cent increase in government controlled train fares announced this week as a disgrace.

He said: “We are getting a really bad deal in Hastings. At the end of the day the fares are going up, but we are not seeing the improvements here. It is absolutely criminal.

The fare increases apply to regulated fares including off-peak intercity tickets and season tickets, which are to rise by 1 per cent above inflation.

Train companies are allowed to raise some fares by an additional five per cent as long as overall the average increase is no more than 4.1 per cent.

An annual season ticket between Hastings and London, using the high speed service via Ashford, could increase from the current £5,768 to around the £6,000 mark.

Mr Chapman added: “If you invest in the railway, strong economic growth will come which Hastings and East Sussex really needs. A campaign has been set up in partnership with the county MPs, councils, Network Rail and through all the rail action groups across Sussex and Brighton to build the business case to improve existing rail infrastructure to deliver the South Coast Main Line concept.

“This would offer a 40 minute journey time from Brighton and an hour from London via Ashford into Hastings.

He said that shorter journey times were key to making Hastings more attractive for businesses to invest, which would in turn drive up salaries and reduce unemployment, as had been the case in Peterborough, Norwich, Ely and Milton Keynes.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: “The Government is investing record amounts into our railways, which will help deliver economic growth, improve performance and significantly boost passenger capacity.

“However, we also recognise it is tough for passengers. That is why we are already limiting these rises by capping the average regulated fares increase at one per cent in real terms, and will be announcing further measures to ensure greater fairness on fares for passengers later this year.”

Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “I am appalled at the prospect of these rises and I have already demanded an urgent meeting with the senior management of Southeastern and Southern trains to hopefully secure a lower than average fare rise as we have successfully achieved for the last two years in Hastings.”

Labour’s candidate for MP in Hastings and Rye Sarah Owen, said: “We need to encourage more use of public transport not less.

“We all want well maintained, reliable trains and the Government spends millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on rail network subsidies- rail operating companies should not be making massive profits at our expense.”

There is some good news for those who travel by train.

A completion date for a major upgrade of the infrastructure on the line between Hastings and London Victoria has been confirmed as November 23. This will mean trains will be able to run faster and closer together.

Martin Woodfine, of St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme (SHRIMP), said: “Working with the DfT we have secured a multi-million pound upgrade to the line between Lewes and Hastings that will be completed in November this year that will drive down journey times,”