COMMUTERS who travel up to London every day by train will now have to pay around £4,000 a year for the privilege.
The 2012 rail fare increases were announced this week, with local passengers facing a 4.59 per cent increase – taking the cost of an annual season ticket for many commuters from Eastbourne to the capital to more than £4,000.
The cost of a season ticket from Eastbourne to London Victoria with a tubecard will set commuters back £4,360. The cost of a standard season ticket to Victoria alone will cost £3,868
The changes will kick in from January 2 and are actually below the Sussex-wide average fare increase of 5.9 per cent.
However, the hike is certain to annoy passengers already miffed at the annual overcrowding and cancellations common throughout the festive period.
Last week, for example, a signal failure on the line between Brighton and London saw commuters left high and dry and having to sit tight while emergency work was carried out – delaying trains by up to an hour and seeing some services trimmed to miss out minor stations between the south coast and the capital.
The across-the-board increases have been calculated by taking the July inflation figure plus one per cent and although Eastbourne has not been hit as badly as other towns, the new year will still see the annual London season ticket top £4,000 for the first time.
Local commuter Rob Kelly, a civil servant who works in central London, was one of the first to slam the move.
He said, “Southern [the rail operator] has once again delivered an unwelcome Christmas present to Eastbourne commuters with this fare rise.
“As many commuters’ salaries remain virtually stagnant, this rise will make a large dent in household budgets.
“People who are regularly up at the crack of dawn to board rolling stock that is already beginning to show its age and are brought home at a snail’s pace, well into the night on oft-delayed services, will surely be scratching their heads as to why they will be paying hundreds of pounds extra per year for the privilege.”
And it was a sentiment echoed by The Campaign for Better Transport’s spokesman Sophie Allain, who said, “Another New Year approaches and yet another round of eye-watering train fare hikes looms.
“It is becoming a tax on passengers who are making the right choice by using public transport.”
Union boss Manuel Cortes, who heads the TSSA transport union, added, “Once again we have the private train operators defying all economic logic and increasing the squeeze on passengers during a recession.”
Southern announced earlier this month that it would freeze a number of fares at the same levels as this year – but largely for off-peak tickets and so of little comfort to those locals travelling to and from work each day.
A spokesman for the firm also added that rail users who booked in advance and online would benefit from savings of up to 10 per cent – again unlikely to be of particular use to hard working commuters.
Michael Roberts, who fronts the Association of Train Operating Companies of which Southern is a member, hit back at accusations that rail firms were cashing in by putting up prices. He said, “Clearly we understand these are really difficult times financially for a lot of people.
“But actually people are voting with their feet and their wallets increasingly to travel by train.”
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