Price blow for rail travellers

TRAIN tickets for commuters are set to rise by nearly eight per cent in January.

An Eastbourne to London season ticket will go up by 7.77 per cent – from £3,655.93 to £3,940 - putting commuters back an extra £284.07 for the year. Day visits to the capital will also increase significantly.

An off-peak day return ticket will rise by almost 10 per cent from £25.10 to £27.60. An anytime day return will also go up from £44.70 to £48.10 - an increase of 7.61 per cent. There will also be a 7.53 per cent rise on single tickets from Eastbourne to London.

A spokesperson from Southern, Eastbourne’s rail operator, explained the Government-controlled regulated fares would rise by 5.8 per cent as a whole and the unregulated fares, set by the train operator, by an average of six per cent.

The spokesman said, “Some fares may go up by more, while others will rise by less or not at all. There are no regulated increases higher than 7.8 per cent.”

Rob Kelly, who commutes from Eastbourne to Victoria daily, said, “This latest price rise is a slap in the face for the hundreds of commuters who use Eastbourne station, not to mention the thousands of people who like to come to our town by train and boost our local economy by spending their money in our shops, pubs and clubs.

“If the service was actually improving it would be slightly more tolerable but with the ever-present threat of getting home over an hour late because of poor track conditions, signalling failures and general slowness, the feeling of bitter chill this winter won’t just be because the train’s heating has broken down yet again.

“When prices rise I think it is only fair to expect an improvement in all aspect of a service – that must be every train user’s challenge to Southern as a result of these increases.”

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd is also concerned about the price hikes.

Mr Lloyd said, “This is another massive hike in rail travel for Eastbourne residents. It’s an absolute disgrace.

“Yet again local commuters are paying for rail improvements elsewhere, from the Brighton line to the Midlands upgrade. Earlier today I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, demanding he meet with me as a matter of urgency and I will also be meeting with Chris Burchell, the managing director of Southern Rail, in the House of Commons next week to express my profound concern.”

Under the current annual price cap formula, fares can only increase each January by the previous July’s Retail Price Index inflation rate plus one per cent. This means that in January 2011, regulated fares will rise by an average of 5.8 per cent.

But this year, the Government has reintroduced the flexibility rule, giving operators a five per cent leeway on this, as long as overall the average rise nationally adheres to the cap.

The Southern spokesperson said there were some ‘highlights’ within this latest review including a freeze on all Southern Advance fares and the introduction of a new Super Off-Peak Travelcard.