South East protests held over rail fare increases

Campaigners have held demonstrations across south-east England against planned rail fare increases in January.

Members of Action for Rail handed out Christmas cards with a message for MPs at Southampton Central, Canterbury West and Brighton stations.

In November train firms confirmed many South East season tickets would go up by more than the 4.2% UK average.

A group of Kent MPs also plan to meet Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Commuters travelling from Ramsgate, Dover Priory and Deal to London will see their season tickets go up 4.8% to £4,864 on 2 January, Southeastern said.

Passengers travelling from Folkestone will see an increase of 4.9% to £4,836 and the cost for those making the journey from Tonbridge will rise 4.4% to £3,768, according to the train operator.

Rail firms that operate across the region said it was the government that set the annual fare increases.

The Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite unions and the TUC have backed the Action for Rail's national campaign.

It encouraged commuters to send the Christmas cards which call for more investment, cheaper fares and a publicly-owned railway, to their local MPs.

'Squeeze on incomes'

Matt Dykes from the TUC in the South East said: "Travel costs are making up a larger and larger slice of people's income, they're almost up there with housing costs now.

"It's just adding to the squeeze on people's incomes."

The government announced in October it would allow train firms to raise the average price of regulated fares by the retail prices index (RPI) inflation plus 1% for the next two years rather than the intended RPI plus 3%.

Operators are allowed to increase some fares by more and some fares by less than RPI plus 1%.

Alison Nolan of Southeastern said: "This year, like many years for the past eight years, they've instructed train companies to rise fares by the rate of inflation plus another 1%.

"So it is the government's policy to shift the cost of running the railways away from the taxpayer and more to the fare-payer - those people that use the rail services.

"Certainly fare increases will be channelled back into investment in the railways.

"We'll see improvements in stations, better equipment on our stations and ultimately it will be re-invested into the railways."

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