Southeastern now London’s most expensive rail firm

Southeastern rail users in London are now paying more than their counterparts in the rest of the capital following Sunday’s hike in train fares.

Passengers will have to fork out up to an extra £84/year for rail-only tickets to central London, simply because their nearest station is run by the troubled firm.

The fare hikes come as a Kent MP accused the company of treating the franchise as “a cash cow” and demanded it be sacked by the government.

Three years ago it was claimed that season tickets would be set at a uniform rate across the capital by 2010 after single and return tickets within London began to be priced on the number of zones passengers travelled through.

But 2011’s fares show that while both sets of passengers would pay £10.80 for a day return to central London, Crayford passengers are charged £1,632 for an annual pass covering the same journey; compared with a £1,548 fee across the Thames at Harold Wood or Rainham.

Even in Zone 2, passengers from Deptford are charged £48 a year more for an annual ticket for a rail-only journey to central London than their counterparts who use the frequent service at Clapham Junction. Both stations charge £4.40 for a day return.

In zone 3, Southeastern is charging £52 more than most other companies, after hiking up the cost of an annual ticket by over 12.5% to £856. Passengers on sister company Southern pay £840 each year, while South West Trains’ charge varies. First Capital Connect, First Great Western and National Express East Anglia sell their annual zone 3 tickets for £804.

The figures would suggest Southeastern is creaming off around £50/year in pure profit from commuters at stations like Greenwich, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park, Lewisham, New Cross, Ladywell and Lee.

The only other London passengers paying more are those on the premium high speed service from Stratford International to St Pancras – which is also run by Southeastern.

The swingeing increases in Southeastern’s fares are supposed to help the company pay for the high-speed services, which run via Stratford and Ebbsfleet into Kent, even though few of its SE London customers are likely to use it.

Despite having the most expensive season tickets in London, Southeastern is also still receiving government subsidy as slower-than-expected development along its high-speed line affected its business model. It has limited room to raise money elsewhere from London passengers as other fares, such as Travelcard rates, are set in conjunction with fellow train operators or Transport for London.

Already this month, MPs have demanded the company’s performance statistics are investigated after it narrowly avoided having to pay compensation to longer-distance commuters for delays from the snow.

Zone 3 station Peak return Weekly ticket Monthly ticket Annual ticket Rail company
Charlton £5.80* £21.40 £82.20 £856.00 Southeastern
Kidbrooke £5.80* £21.40 £82.20 £856.00 Southeastern
Hither Green £5.80* £21.40 £82.20 £856.00 Southeastern
Catford/ Catford Br £5.80* £21.40 £82.20 £856.00 Southeastern/ FCC
Crofton Park £5.80* £21.40 £82.20 £856.00 Southeastern/ FCC
Honor Oak Park £5.80* £21.00 £80.70 £840.00 Southern/ London O’ground
Sydenham Hill £5.80* £21.40 £82.20 £856.00 Southeastern
Crystal Palace £5.80* £21.00 £80.70 £840.00 Southern/ London O’ground
Streatham £5.80* £21.00 £80.70 £840.00 Southern/ First Cap Connect
Balham £5.80* £21.00 £80.70 £840.00 Southern
Tooting £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 First Capital Connect
Wimbledon £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 South West Trains/FCC
Chiswick £5.80* £20.50 £78.80 £820.00 South West Trains
Kew Bridge £5.80* £20.80 £79.90 £832.00 South West Trains
North Sheen £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 South West Trains
Ealing Broadway £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 First Great Western
Cricklewood** £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 First Capital Connect
Alexandra Palace £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 First Capital Connect
Seven Sisters £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 National Express
Tottenham Hale £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 National Express
St James Street (W’stow) £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 National Express
Stratford Int’l £9.20 £27.10 £104.10 £1084.00 Southeastern high-speed
Stratford £5.80* £20.10 £77.20 £804.00 National Express

All fares are paper tickets to London Terminals except ** to “London Thameslink”. *Oyster users are charged up to £5.60 for a return. Harlesden, Stonebridge Park and West Ham stations only sell Travelcards.
Source: National Rail Enquiries / TfL.

Zone 2 station Peak return Weekly ticket Monthly ticket Annual ticket Rail company
Deptford £4.70* £16.30 £62.60 £652.00 Southeastern
St Johns £4.70* £16.30 £62.60 £652.00 Southeastern
Nunhead £4.70* £16.30 £62.60 £652.00 Southeastern/ FCC
Peckham Rye £4.70* £15.50 £59.60 £620.00 Southern/ Southeastern
Denmark Hill £4.70* £15.50 £59.60 £620.00 Southeastern/ Southern
Clapham Junction £4.70* £15.10 £58.00 £604.00 South West Trains/ Southern
Putney £4.70* £15.30 £58.80 £612.00 South West Trains
West Hampstead** £4.70* £15.30 £58.80 £612.00 First Capital Connect
Kentish Town** £4.70* £15.30 £58.80 £612.00 FCC/ Southeastern
Finsbury Park n/a*** £14.60 £56.10 £584.00 First Capital Connect
Hackney Downs £4.70* £15.30 £58.80 £612.00 National Express

*Fare is up to £4.40 for Oyster users. ** To “London Thameslink”. ***Tube fares apply from Finsbury Park. Source: National Rail Enquiries / TfL.

Zone 6 station Peak return Weekly ticket Monthly ticket Annual ticket Rail company
Crayford £10.80* £40.80 £156.70 £1632.00 Southeastern
Knockholt £10.80* £40.80 £156.70 £1632.00 Southeastern
Caterham £10.80* £39.60 £152.10 £1584.00 Southern
Ewell East £10.80* £39.60 £152.10 £1584.00 Southern
Ewell West £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 South West Trains
Hampton £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 South West Trains
West Drayton £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 First Great Western
West Ruislip £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 Chiltern Railways
Elstree & Borehamwood** £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 First Capital Connect
Hadley Wood £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 First Capital Connect
Enfield Lock £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 National Express
Harold Wood £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 National Express
Rainham (Essex) £10.80* £38.70 £148.70 £1548.00 c2c

*Fare is up to £10.40 for Oyster users. ** To “London Thameslink”. Source: National Rail Enquiries / TfL.

Rochester and Strood MP Mark Reckless has called Southeastern “not fit for purpose”, and called for the company to be sacked by the government.

“As a regular commuter myself, I sympathise very strongly with hard-working taxpayers who are basically being held to ransom by a company which appears to have little interest in delivering a decent service to commuters, let alone one that provides value for money.

As a former City economist, I simply cannot make sense of Southeastern’s justification for the distribution of the latest fare increases.

The company is simply treating the Kent franchise as a cash cow and does not even appear to be making decisions which are commercially sensible. Southeastern should be stripped of the franchise as soon as possible.”

Erith & Thamesmead Labour MP Teresa Pearce said on Twitter she “agreed” with Mr Reckless, whose comments came after other MPs called for the company’s performance statistics, which determine if passengers receive season ticket discounts, to be investigated.

A break clause in Southeastern’s franchise means it could be sacked in April 2012 if it failed during a year-long review period, which ended last month. The company can also walk away from the franchise at this point. If Southeastern passes the review, then its franchise is extended to April 2014.

Thanet MP Roger Gale has already said the company should “kiss goodbye” to its franchise.

Mark Reckless’s intervention has made me think of two things. While there’s no suggestion that Southeastern is acting in an improper manner, his comments about the way the company operates echo the reason why Connex was sacked in 2003 – for financial mismanagement.

Also, there are 31 MPs in Kent and London commuter constituencies served by Southeastern, 22 of them Conservatives (all 17 Kent MPs are Tories) nine Labour. Of course, both parties have form here, but if they put it aside and joined forces to demand the company’s sacking, would the government be able to resist?

16 comments

  1. Thanks for bringing this to light. “The same number of zones, for the same price” is sadly not a principle that underpins rail travel in London, although it should.

  2. It does for daily tickets – so why not for season tickets? It’s pure profiteering (in fact, I’ve just added a line in italics to emphasise this.)

  3. I had a meeting with Helen Grant [she’s the Maidstone & The Weald MP – Darryl] about Southeastern a few weeks back. I highlighted that it was time all these Kent MP’s came together to give Southeastern a damn good kicking and she agreed. What this means in the short term is very little. In the long term who knows… She did say that she is going to try to arrange a meeting between commuter groups, Kent MP’s and Southeastern.

    On the subject of high speed – well, that’s a dismal failure as the people that want to use it (deal) have to stand there and watch empty trains go past because it’s not safe to stop there (no guards on board at that point) and they can only field 18 trains when they need 22 to run a full HS1 service. They have 29 class 395’s. This means that 11 class 395s always have faults – Not very good maintenance figures and it flies right in the face of the ‘hs1 is wonderful’ crap that Southeastern keep spinning.

  4. High speed’s a failure because not enough people are using it, frankly. If changing the route map fixes that, then that could be a solution.

    But it’s also a failure because people who can’t use it, like us in SE London, are having to subsidise it through hiked-up fares.

  5. I thought I couldn’t dislike southeastern any more than I already do. But you’ve disabused me of that idea

    But it’s pretty clear that they are playing the system. And if you have a monopoly and have shareholders to pay, behaviour like this is exactly how the rest of us might expect things to turn out. What does the Rail Regulator have to say?

  6. A lone voice…but the trains are already overcrowded –
    lowering the price will only put more people on it!! Keep ’em where
    they are or up them…

  7. I’d expect the Regulator (funded as it is by taxpayers, hard working or otherwise)to at least comment publicly that southeastern is demonstrably over charging its customers and, through doing so, appears to be abusing its monopoly.

    I naively thought that was what it was for.

  8. Are people aware if your expensive annual ticket is stolen or lossed more than once you can’t have a 3rd replacement, according to the ticket clerk at Whitstable Station nor will the remaining fare be repaid. You have to pay again to get to work. Nice little earner? pity commuter don’t have payment enforcement officers, perhaps we do, minister of transport?

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