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Bromley commuters 'outraged' by rail fare rises

Southeastern train

Southeastern train

Archant

Hard-hit commuters faced the highest rail fare hikes in the country on their return to work following the New Year break.

Campaigners dressed up as Nick Clegg, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and David Cameron at Charing Cross.

Despite the average tariff rising by 6.2 per cent, passengers in Bromley are now doubly worse off with increases of almost 13 per cent.

Season ticket holders in Beckenham and Orpington who commute to London will be the most out-of-pocket, with rises of 12.8 per cent and 12.71 per cent respectively.

It means a ticket from Beckenham Junction which cost £1,000 last year is now £1,128 while one from Orpington is now £1,632, up from £1,448 in 2010.

Train company Southeastern, responsible for 540 miles of train-track in the South East and 179 stations, blamed the increases on reduced Government subsidy and a policy shift to make passengers rather than taxpayers fund the network.

Speaking on Tuesday at Orpington station, self employed teacher Claire Mundy, 58, from St Mary Cray, said: “I used to be able to get a travel card for zone two to six for £5.10 but now I’m forced to buy a zone one to six for £8 when I don’t even want to go to zone one. I don’t see why I’m paying £8 when I was paying £5 before. It’s disgusting. I was outraged by the increase. It’s an absolute disgrace. What does Boris Johnson has to say about it? It’s supposed to be a Government of choices but it’s discrimination against everybody who lives in zones two to six.”

Orpington MP Jo Johnson, who lobbied Transport Minister Philip Hammond to cap the fares, said: “The only consolation, and it’s a meagre one, is that there is now less disparity between the South East and the rest of the country. It is really important that we have a commuter transport system which is competitive with cars.”

Bromley already has one of London’s highest population of car drivers and campaigners have warned the increases could encourage passengers back into their vehicles.

Chair of Bromley Borough Road Action Group Roger Lawson said: “Many people are driving from Kent, places like Maidstone and parking in the suburbs like Chislehurst to make their train journeys shorter because of the astronomical fares

“The parking charges at stations have gone up so people are parking in the side streets causing major congestion which will get worse as the fares go up. The whole thing is a nightmare.”

Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) lobbyists, including Monty Python actor Michael Palin, the charity’s president gathered at Charing Cross station on Tuesday dressed up as Mr Hammond imitating a pickpocket.

A Southeastern spokesperson said: “We appreciate nobody likes to see prices rise but it is the stated policy of the government to move more of the cost of travelling by train towards passengers and away from the general taxpayer.

“There are only two sources of funding for railway journeys- taxpayer subsidy and passengers’ fares. The amount of taxpayer subsidy we receive from the Government reduces year-on-year and to offset this we need raise the fares to make up the difference and to minimise the burden on taxpayers.”

Doctor Susmita Das, 39 from Orpington, said: “I’ve been spending too much so far on travel. I just find it really expensive but I have to use the trains because I don’t drive and don’t have a choice. The service is the same, it hasn’t got better. During the snow there were so many disruptions.”

Mark Jordan, 49 from Orpington said: “It’s going to be an extra 10 per cent so I willWORK from home to minimise my time and effort. They will be losing my custom, I haven’t noticed any improvement to the service. They’re not justified in doing this.”

kate.nelson@archant.co.uk

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