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Rail Fares

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2007

6. For what reasons Southeastern Trains has removed zone 3 from its ticket prices on north Kent services; and if he will make a statement. (112060)

I reassure my hon. Friend that Southeastern has not removed zone 3 from its ticket prices on north Kent services. However, may I commend him on identifying that omission and bringing it to my attention? I am informed that the company made an error in implementing London zonal fares, which affected zone 3, and I can confirm that that error has now been corrected.

I am sorry that I have had to approach my hon. Friend to receive anything close to an apology for the error. When my constituents wrote to Southeastern, the company chose to ignore the complaint in its reply, blaming the Government for a 66 per cent. increase in fares. It is several weeks since I pointed out the error, so will my hon. Friend ensure that Southeastern publicise it and give people who can prove that they were overcharged and who paid an excessive fare the opportunity to obtain a refund?

I well understand my hon. Friend’s concern. It is for Southeastern to decide whether or not to publicise any new arrangements, but I have been told that it is working on a process to refund season ticket holders who have overpaid.

Is the Minister aware of the anger among commuters in my constituency, both at the large fare increase on north Kent services, and at the unreliable service that they receive? Surely, increased ticket prices far above inflation and train delays are not the way to encourage more people to use the service.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that regulated fares have increased more on Southeastern than on most other franchises, at RPI plus 3 per cent. compared with RPI plus 1 per cent. for other train operating companies. Those rises can be justified by the significant investment that has taken place on Southeastern in recent years, and that investment will continue. It should be noted that over the past three years, Southeastern’s performance has increased by 9.3 per cent., as it has achieved a public performance measure of 88.8 per cent.