Double blow for rail passengers

COMMUTERS are facing a double blow – with an eight per cent increase in fares and a threatened closure of a host of ticket offices at local stations.

Rail bosses have announced that prices in and out of Eastbourne were set to spiral, with rail fares now rising on average four times faster than wages.

Next year, a season ticket from Eastbourne to London will cost £4,181.31 – £313.31 more than it does at the moment.

And train campaign group Fair Fares Now, which visited Eastbourne Station to petition commuters last month, says it would now actually be cheaper for the transport secretary Philip Hammond to drive his petrol-guzzling Jaguar from his Surrey home to his office in the City than catch a train.

Eastbourne’s MP Stephen Lloyd – faced with a regular commute to the capital – was one of those who reacted angrily to the news, saying, “These whopping price increases are simply outrageous.

“It’s bad enough our trains take so long to get up to London but to increase the season ticket by more than £300 as well is just adding insult to injury.”

And it was a sentiment which was also echoed by train lobbyist Alexandra Woodsworth.

Speaking on behalf of the Campaign for Better Transport, she said, “Despite rising fuel costs, it’s still often cheaper to drive than to take the train.

“Unprecedented fare hikes next January will deal a further blow to rail commuters and others who rely on public transport.

“With inflation running so high and living costs soaring across the board, it’s time for the Government to re-think further punitive fare increases and make sure train travel is affordable and accessible to all.”

Elsewhere union bosses have warned that mooted ticket office closures, designed to save £1billion a year, could see smaller stations become a fertile hunting ground for petty criminals.

The Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) revealed this week that it had uncovered a hit list of UK stations being earmarked to lose their manned ticket offices.

And Hampden Park, Pevensey and Westham and Berwick are all on that list.

Southern Rail has said it has no current plans to close any stations in Sussex but TSSA head honcho Gerry Doherty has said removing staff from smaller stations would leave passengers feeling more vulnerable.

And rail union boss Bob Crow, of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, described said the leaked list went some way in highlighting what he called ‘the shocking scale of the ticket office massacre’, adding that the plans could transform affected stations into little more than a ‘criminal’s paradise’.

Commuter groups in East Sussex are now finalising plans on how to fight the potential cut-backs.