South East Rail Fares - MPs attack Fare increases (January 22nd 2009)
Members of Parliament from across Kent, Sussex and Hampshire have this week launched a further Commons attack on fare increases proposed by South Eastern and Southern Trains.
In the debate every back-bench MP (Greg Barker, Bexhill and Battle, Sir George Young, North West Hampshire, Roger Gale, N. Thanet, Greg Clark, Tunbridge Wells, Charles Hendry, Wealden, Norman Baker, Lewes, Andrew Pelling, Croydon, and Christopher Chope, Christchurch,) all lambasted the proposals for fare increases, the impact upon fares of the Javelin "fast" train and standards of service. On the Government benches only an isolated Transport Minister, Paul Clark, (Gillingham) was in his seat to defend the Government's position in relation to the franchise agreements and formula that has permitted this years swingeing fare increases.
Launching into a renewed attack Roger Gale, who has consistently opposed the above-average rises on the Kent Coast and other services to East Kent, spoke of "a source of burning anger for our constituents".
"This is the third year in succession in which my constituents travelling from Margate, Westgate on Sea, Birchington on Sea and Herne Bay have faced an above-average fare increase. We are told that that increase is necessary to pay for the much vaunted fast rail service that is going to speed the journey from Kent to St. Pancras. The advertising on Southeasternís website says "New high speed services from Kent to St Pancras will dramatically reduce journey times".
Oh no they will not!
They might reduce the travelling time just a little from East Kent to St. Pancras but my constituents do not want to go to St. Pancras. They want to go to Victoria, Cannon Street and Charing Cross. Coming in from south of London most of them, as the Minister knows well, do not work in north London. They work around Victoria or in Westminster or in the City around Cannon Street. They are used to travelling to one of the riverbank termini and then walking, or even taking a fold-up bicycle and cycling, to work.
My constituents are going to be made to pay higher prices to travel to a station that they do not want to go to and then pay a tube fare to get back to the place where they actually want to be, thus adding time to their journey. The bottom line is that my constituents are going to pay more for less."
After the debate Roger Gale said:
"The Minister did not answer one of the points that I raised. He claimed that there would be an increase in the peak-time trains from Tunbridge Wells but when I challenged him on the reduction in services to and from Victoria and Cannon Street from East Kent he did not respond.
I have accordingly now written to the Minister, whose Kent constituents are suffering from the same fares and inconvenience as my own, requesting answers to each of the issues of concern. I believe that his constituents and my own have a right to answers".