Rail fares will rise above inflation in January
by Martin Jefferies
Kent commuters will continue to face "eye-watering" rail fare increases of up to 11% next year - after MPs rejected calls to make tickets more affordable.
Labour had wanted the government to restore a 1% above inflation cap on rail fare increases.
But MPs voted 294-231 against the motion during a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon.
The rate at which the cost of train travel can rise is currently set at 3% above inflation.
However, train companies are allowed to add an extra 5% on top – allowing season tickets for Kent commuters to rise by up to £600 in January.
A number of Kent MPs have attacked plans to hike rail fares, including Chatham and Aylesford's Tracey Crouch and Rochester and Strood's Mark Reckless, who said some commuters are being "priced out" of work.
Shadow transport minister Lilian Greenwood said: "Commuters cannot shop around for cheaper fares; they simply have to pay up and see their disposable incomes hit.
"The government needs to mind the gap between rhetoric and the reality of overcrowded carriages, delays to services and complicated pricing structures.
"Their words are cheap but fares are dear and the train companies are counting the profits."
However, transport minister Norman Baker said "reforming and modernising Britain's railways is one of the government's top priorities".
"We all want to see an end to rail fare rises above inflation," he added.
Meanwhile, Peter Skinner, Labour MEP for the south east, said: "For many people, the daily commute is now their biggest household bill and we may be approaching a tipping point where season tickets simply become unaffordable.
"The government is doing nothing to relieve the pressure on hard-working families."