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MPs query Southeastern after payouts scrapped

Kent's long-suffering commuters were hit by a hike in station car parking charges today – right on the back of this week's fare increases.

The news came as thousands of regular passengers returned to work after a Christmas break.

Southeastern's regulated fares will go up by an average of 7.8 per cent to pay for extra investment, including the high-speed Javelin trains.

And from today car parking charges at some stations will also go up. It means an annual space at Sevenoaks station will cost £1252.50.

One commuter Vicky Wise said: "After the appalling start to the New Year imposing a fare rise on commuters from Ashford to London, Southeastern have now compounded the issue with a rise in car parking fees, adding insult to injury."

Earlier, it was revealed passengers will be denied compensation payouts because Southeastern narrowly passed punctuality targets.

Click here to read Paul's view on the fare rises

The announcement on payouts has come under scrutiny from MPs, who have called for an independent audit of Southeastern’s figures.

Season ticket holders would have been entitled to a five per cent reduction had Southeastern failed to run 82 per cent of its trains on time over the last 12 months.

But the company says it managed to run 82.04 per cent of services punctually over that period - avoiding having to cut prices.

Several MPs have expressed reservations about the company’s figures, saying they should be re-examined.

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch said: "This is certainly something that needs to be looked at. I do not think it is credible given the amount of correspondence I’ve had from people complaining about the services. The vast majority of Southeastern commuters are rather miffed about the increase in fares because the service they get does not match the increase."

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, a government minister, said: "These figures should be examined exceedingly closely and forensically to make sure they are accurate and have not been manipulated in any way."

Commuters are entitled to compensation under the Passenger Charter Scheme.

Meanwhile, a second Kent MP has called on the government to strip Southeastern of its franchise.

Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless (Con) said: "These latest fare increases, combined with the news that Southeastern commuters will not enjoy an automatic season ticket discount despite the pitiful performance in December, suggests that Southeastern Trains is beyond redemption."

He added: "The company is simply treating the Kent franchise as a cash cow and does not even appear to be making decisions which are commercially sensible. Southeastern should be stripped of the franchise as soon as possible."

Southeastern said that its punctuality figures were already independently checked and that it was "completely incorrect" that it cancelled services for commercial reasons.

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