Published: 07:55, 05 December 2017
Kent's rail passengers face a steep 3.6% increase in fares next year, it has been announced.
The hike - the largest increase for five years - will not be welcomed by hard-pressed commuters already paying some of the highest season ticket prices in the country, notably on High Speed 1 services.
And the same increase will apply to both regulated - peak time services - and unregulated fares during off-peak travel - except advanced booking fares which remain frozen at 2017 prices.
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Southeastern said the increase - which is above the industry average of 3.4% - was needed to continue improving the rail network and services.
A spokesman for Southeastern said: “We understand that no one likes to see prices go up, especially season ticket holders.
"However, the government regulates annual fare increases to meet the costs of running and upkeep of Britain’s railways.
"Nearly 97p of every pound from train fares goes back into the rail industry for running and improving the network.
"For unregulated fares – including off-peak travel – we offer discounted ticket prices, special offers and promotional fares.
"Southeastern remains committed to making journeys better for passengers and has invested over £78m to improve train services and station facilities.”
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents franchise holders, said average fares across the industry next year would rise by 3.4%.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group which brings together train companies and Network Rail, said: "Government controls increases to almost half of fares, including season tickets, with the rest heavily influenced by the payments train companies make to government.
"Alongside investment from the public and private sectors, money from fares is underpinning the partnership railway’s long-term plan to change and improve.”
But campaign groups criticised the increase.
The chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said: "While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days."
And the Campaign for Better Transport said: “This is unfair and harmful at a time when wages are largely stagnant; for instance public sector workers are subject to an ongoing 1% pay cap.”
Average rail fares for Southeastern services rose by just under 2% last year.
Kent MPs and KCC have both called for the next franchise for running the county’s trains to bring down the 30% premium that Southeastern is permitted to add on to ticket prices.
People can find the new fares and buy tickets online and at ticket offices from today.
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