It's official: Southeastern is taking us for a ride

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By Sevenoaks Chronicle | Thursday, November 28, 2013, 08:00

TODAY the Chronicle can reveal – once and for all – that Sevenoaks commuters are paying well over the odds.

  • We pay up to 27% more per mile than Surrey commuters
  • Fare prices are twice that of Metropolitan services elsewhere
  • Consumer group: 'They've been milking us for years'
  • Next inflation-busting rise to be announced within days

Rail travellers from our local stations shell out up to 39 per cent more than those in Surrey, such as Reigate and Redhill.

And travellers will fork out almost twice as much as someone travelling into other big cities such as Manchester, Cardiff or Edinburgh.

Rail bosses have come under fire after it was announced ticket prices are set to see a hike of around four per cent in the new year. And Tony Clayton, chairman of Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association, wants major reforms to stop rail users being tapped for every single penny.

"The fares per mile show just how much the rail companies have milked the commuters of West Kent," he said.

"Through successive fare rounds they have taken the view that people who work in London and travel from Sevenoaks, Dunton Green, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells are captive customers who can be asked to subsidise others.

"We pay between five and 15 per cent more per mile than commuters from further out. We pay nearly 30 per cent per mile more than passengers from Knockholt, who are covered by the TfL fare regime, which we were denied a few months ago."

The Chronicle calculated the cost per mile of an anytime single ticket for a morning trip to the first London terminus from a range of Kent and Surrey stations.

A trip from Sevenoaks station to London Bridge costs 52.3 pence per mile, while a West Malling commuter pays 47.3 pence per mile and a Tunbridge Wells rail user forks out 57.5 pence per mile. Many rail users purchase season tickets to cover their journeys, which reduces the relative cost.

A month-long season ticket from Sevenoaks costs £298.80, which, in a 20-working-day month works out at 34.6 pence per mile.

Kent commuters will have every reason to feel aggrieved as we can reveal the cost of comparable journeys beginning in Surrey is between ten and 20 pence per mile cheaper.

A commuter setting off from Reigate station to London Bridge pays just 37.7 pence per mile. Redhill costs 40.5 pence per mile and Guildford to London Waterloo is 40.3 pence per mile.

Mr Clayton sees this as proof that urgent action needs to be taken to stop commuters being taken for a ride by rail bosses ahead of further price hikes in just over a month’s time.said: “It is interesting to see that Southern Railways, from Guildford, Reigate and Redhill, seems to have a much more even – and lower – range of fares per mile. We understand that DfT and Southeastern Railways justify the higher fares in Kent because of the 'major investment' in HS1.

"But of course this investment has only improved the services from Ashford and East Kent, and has not benefitted West Kent commuters at all.

"What is happening now is simply unfair. In its fares for 2014, Southeastern Railways should be challenged to reduce the discrimination against Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. We have not seen any passenger numbers from the new luxury, low cost coach service to Docklands, but these discriminatory fare figures must be the best advert they could ask for."

A Southeastern spokesman said: "Fares are not set on a pence per mile basis, they’re market led. So fares are set based on passenger volumes from stations and other market conditions. Train operators follow a policy that is set by the government. There are many great value fare offers available which help with the cost of travel. With an annual season ticket you get 40 weeks for the price of 52 - which is 12 weeks free travel as well as additional benefits and discounts."

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  • Profile image for TGBHY

    There is another way:

    2 of us travel in from Dunton Green to Canary Wharf and we save £250pm on an annual ticket. And we have never looked back; no crowds, no tubes, it's been marvellous - really life changing. For the Wharf I would not hesitate to recommend it, especially if you live a way out from S'Oaks station or in a village such as Chipstead or Riverhead without a train service. However the S'Oaks service has not had as much take up as their T Wells service and as a result Centaur are making significant changes and cutbacks to the service. There is only one direct coach in the morning now, and none on the way home. In the morning (except for the one direct service) you now get picked up in a minibus and you join a busy T Wells service off the A21 (although there is always plenty of seating, and this is quaranteed by Centaur) and in the evening you get dropped off the (much less busy) Tonbridge coach by the A25 and picked up by a minibus. And they have just dropped the very early S'Oaks service completely so this is no longer viable for traders or people who need to be in well before 8. Also the S'Oaks route tends to get the older coaches in the fleet now which are not like those advertised and often have no Wifi.

    So...if you are tempted to use their free trial (2 day) offer to see if you like it, or if you know you want to switch, I would urge you to do so as soon as possible. My sense is that unless this becomes commercially viable for Centaur soon they will keep downscaling it until it is no longer an attractive option, or they may stop it completely and we will all be at the mercy of SouthEastern and TFL once again - or in our cars. They are investing in Tonbridge and T Wells because people are using it.

    I would be happy to answer any questions you may have if you are thinking about using the service. I had a lot of questions when I switched over from trains. I am a customer (though with a vested interest in the service continuing) and not a Centaur marketer so I will give you an honest answer.

    By TGBHY at 09:12 on 11/12/13

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