Anger over New Year rail fare hikes of up to 3.4 per cent for commuters across east and south London

New Cross Station. Pic. N Chadwick

Commuters in the Eastlondonlines boroughs are facing rail fare increases of up to 3.4 per cent, the biggest increase in 5 years, the rail delivery service announced yesterday.

These increases affect commuters on all rail services including Southeastern, Southern, c2c, Greater Anglia and overground trains covering all four boroughs. The new fares will come into place January 2 and it is the biggest spike in growth in 5 years, as rail fares only increased by an average of 2.3 per cent in January 2017 and 1.1 per cent in 2016.

Lewisham and Hackney are the worst hit boroughs with a fare increase of 3.4 per cent, with Croydon’s increase only slightly better at a 3.3 per cent rise. Tower Hamlets is the ELL borough that is the best of, but still has a significant increase of 3 per cent.

All Overground commuters in all the boroughs are also affected, as whilst single fares remain frozen, travelcard prices will increase by 3.4 per cent.

The plan for the increase is in accordance with 2017 inflations costs, but will affect many Lewisham residents who already have few options to travel in and out of the borough. Fifteen of Lewisham’s 23 stations run along a Southeastern rail line, leaving residents with little alternative but to pay the increase in fares.

Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Alongside investment from the public and private sectors, money from fares is underpinning the partnership railway’s long-term plan to change and improve.

Working together, our plan will secure £85billion of additional economic benefits while enabling further investment and improved journeys for customers, better connections to boost local communities and a bright future for our employees.”

The cost of an adult return ticket from Lewisham to London Charing Cross is currently £6.10. According to Trainline, from January 2, this will increase to £6.30. Costing regular commuters up to £52 a year extra.

According to their website, 97 per cent of the money from fares is reinvested back into the railway to improve service and efficiency for the customers.

Rail Delivery Group said in its statement that: “Investment in the rail is supported by a transformation in rail finances over the last 20 years from a £2billion deficit in 1997-8, footed by the taxpayer, to a £200 million surplus.”

However, despite pledges to reinvest to improve services, between October and November of this year, Southeastern rail trains from London and Dartford via Lewisham achieved 83.4 per cent punctuality and an overall average of 85.8 per cent, down from 87.9 per cent last year.


Rail Fare Increases from 2010. Pic. MyChartTool Lucinda Diamond

Lewisham Councillor, Stella Jeffery told ELL: “Many people in Lewisham rely on Southeastern to get them to work. With overcrowded trains, poor reliability and some stations like Hither Green that still not able to provide access for all, they will see January’s fares hike as a further squeeze on their living standards as few people will be getting anything like 3 per cent pay rises. And for many, having had no service at all for 10 days over Christmas and New Year, it will be the last straw.”

Lewisham residents have expressed their frustration towards the transport links many times over the last few years. With no DLR or underground stations, residents are reliant solely on the national rail or numerous buses in order to travel in and around the borough.

In recent weeks, two petitions have been started: including one to rezone several stations in the borough and another for better service and more frequent trains on the Crofton Park/Catford loop.

In a report presented to Lewisham Council, the Lewisham Poverty Commission suggested that a way to battle the issue of transport could be to extend the underground Bakerloo line from Elephant and Castle through Lewisham.

Simon Dodd-Wild, 25, who travels everyday through Lewisham to work in London told ELL: “I feel helpless about it because it’s basically my only way into central from where I live. They’ve hiked it up year after year with nothing to show for it.

I’m not happy about it but the only other routes are just as expensive and take even longer. I don’t know what else to do?”

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