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Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, calls for Government to bring in flexible rail fare on Southeastern journeys

An MP has urged the Government to act fast on bringing in flexible train tickets, labelling the current fare system faced by many outdated and "an outrageous injustice".

Speaking yesterday in the House of Commons, Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, said Whitehall had acted swiftly on health care and jobs in the face of the "tumultuous change" bought on by the pandemic, but for his constituents, travelling with Southeastern, the season ticket system remains unchanged.

Mr Clark's plea comes after Kent MPs wrote to the rail company, calling on them to introduce flexible ticketing for commuters.

Watch: MP Greg Clark speak in the Commons about rail fares

Many other train operators have already introduced flexible products but Southeastern has yet to do so.

It submitted a proposal in July to the Government for changes to ticketing, which is still being reviewed.

Mr Clark said: "A standard class season ticket from Tunbridge Wells costs £4,928 a year, which is a large amount of money.

"The price of a daily standard peak return ticket is £39.90. That means that someone travelling three days a week to London for 47 weeks of the year must pay £5,626.

"In other words, it costs over £700 more to travel three days a week than five or even seven days a week.

Greg Clark speaking in the House of Commons yesterday. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv
Greg Clark speaking in the House of Commons yesterday. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv

"It is a ludicrous anachronism and an outrageous injustice that we have the same fare structure for workers in 2020 as we did in 1950."

He said that even before the pandemic, many people do not work in the city centre five days a week and the system penalises people who work part time and often earn less.

He went on: "The fare structure flies in the face of the advice that the Government are currently giving to curb the spread of covid, which says, “work from home if you can”.

"For many people, that means going into the office less, perhaps for important meetings or to train newer and younger colleagues, and working from home more.

"That pattern is not supported if it is cheaper to travel five days a week than three days.

"The fare system hampers our recovery from the economic consequences of covid. Our businesses and their staff need to be flexible and adaptive.

"Instead, working patterns will be formed not by what is ideal for the business and the worker, but to conform to an antiquated fare system."

"It is time now to make this change. It does not have to be this way."

Chris Heaton- Harris, Minister of State for the Department of Transport. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv
Chris Heaton- Harris, Minister of State for the Department of Transport. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv

Mr Clark urged the Government to act on the proposals submitted by Southeastern in the summer.

Chris Heaton-Harris, Department of Transport minister, said the Government has been working with the rail industry to try and ensure better value and convenience for part-time and flexible commuters.

He said his officials are in the process of carefully considering the proposals recieved over the summer from operating companies, "ensuring that they will offer value for money, give passengers what they want, be deliverable and work for the future."

He added that the schemes also need to be signed off by the Treasury.

Earlier this month, Ashford MP Damien Green urged the Prime Minister to pressure train companies to provide flexible season tickets to the capital to match office hours post-lockdown.

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