Commuters will be paying more to get to London by train from today, as rail fares rise once again.
Southeastern announced a 2.2% hike in the cost of season tickets and off-peak fares at the beginning of December – the lowest increase in five years – and the new prices come into force today.
For example, passengers from Chatham and Gillingham buying a season ticket into London will pay an extra £92, while those catching the high speed from Strood will pay £116 more.
Southeastern says the extra cash will be spent on improvements to services, including more than 95,000 extra seats off-peak and up to 75 extra staff at stations.
The rail fare increases are good news for one Medway business. The Kings Ferry coach company, based in Gillingham, is reporting record demand for its commuter services. Managing director Ian Fraser believes alongside the promise of guaranteed seats and lower season ticket prices than rail, which cost around £1,000 more, the firm’s continued investment is the key to its success. He added:
We are committed to continued investment in our services – and our customers – in 2015 and we’d like to thank our loyal customers old and new for choosing to travel with us.”
Over the next three years Southeastern is spending £70 million on refreshing the look of its trains and improving stations. And later this year, Rochester is due to have its new station. It seems investment is needed – a recent survey by independent rail watchdog Passenger Focus found only three in 10 commuters are happy with the value of their ticket. Director David Sidebottom said:
What is now needed is a more consistent day-to-day service, and a flexible fares structure that delivers the type of products that passengers want.
Southeastern’s managing director David Statham said:
Customers want more value for money and an improvement to their service – and we’re committed to providing just that. More than 250,000 people rely on our trains for their journeys every day and we’re investing fares directly in schemes that will make those journeys easier.
Chatham MP Tracey Crouch said it was disappointing fares were rising again, “particularly when the service remains consistently below par” but she was pleased the increase this year is much lower than previous years.