Published: 08:22, 14 August 2019
| Updated: 13:47, 14 August 2019
The price of seasons tickets in Kent will rise by 2.8%, it has just been announced.
The regulated fares will see a rise of more than £200 for some annual tickets in January.
Many Kent commuters using High Speed trains are already paying a premium for season tickets, and fares are already among the highest in Europe.
The increase will affect many season tickets, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and travel around major cities.
Passenger groups have warned this hike could make people switch away from trains.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has accused the government of "playing into the hands of the private rail companies" and "showing complete contempt for passengers at a time when it should be encouraging as many people as possible to use the rail network".
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Yet another rail fare hike is a kick in the teeth for the UK’s rail passengers who are already paying over the odds to travel on overcrowded, clapped out and unreliable trains.
"This is just corporate welfare for the greedy train companies on an industrial scale - a return to public ownership would free up the funds needed to both hold down fares and invest in services.
"Only 10% of stations are fully staffed yet UK passengers are getting ripped off on a daily basis.
"Britain's passengers are paying the highest fares in Europe - it is time for it to end."
MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat has called for the price increase not to be passed on to commuters using the Maidstone East Line.
His reason being this line expected the introduction of Thameslink services between Maidstone East and Cambridge, via London Bridge, but it is now "highly unlikely this service will be delivered as planned."
Mr Tugendhat said: "It has become clear Thameslink cannot deliver the rail services they promised, so there is no reason those using the Maidstone East line should pay more for their train until the promised services are delivered."
The MP has written to the rail minister regarding the matter.
Season ticket prices are regulated by the government, with annual changes based on the July Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation measure.
At the start of this year, season ticket prices rose by 3.2% - news that was met with dismay from many long-suffering commuters, but was below the 3.5% increase that had been predicted.
David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: "After a year of more stable - but still patchy - rail performance, many rail passengers will be mystified that rail fares should be going up at all, let alone by 2.8%.
"The National Rail Passenger Survey shows less than one third of rail commuters are satisfied with the value for money of their ticket.
"Transport Focus believes it’s time for fairer, clearer fares, based on calculations that use the Consumer Prices Index, rather than the discredited Retail Price Index.
"Britain's passengers are paying the highest fares in Europe - it is time for it to end" - Mick Cash, RMT general secretary
"After recent disruption and a lot of misery over last winter, rail operators still have a great deal to improve.
"To help focus their efforts it is vital that passengers ‘make delay pay’ by claiming every time for any compensation they are due."
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group, said: "No one wants to pay more to get to work but by holding rises down to no more than inflation, money from fares will continue to cover almost all of the day-to-day costs of running rail services. This means private sector and taxpayer money can go towards improving services for the long term.
"Rail users across the country are already seeing and feeling the benefits of this investment with new trains and more services.
"People want simpler, better value fares and we want to work with government to deliver our proposals for reforming today’s outdated system to make fares easier for all."
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