Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 4th January 2017

As the holidays draw to a close and we begin the new year, it’s back to work and for many that means the unwelcome Christmas gift of seeing the price of their train ticket increase.

Train ticket prices are out of control. Over the period the Conservatives have been in Government we’ve seen rail fares increase by 27%, that’s three times faster than wages, with January’s price hike becoming a regular feature of the calendar. If only trains ran so closely to schedule.

For Crawley commuters, a season ticket between Three Bridges and London is now £3,572, almost £800 more than in 2010. That’s at a time when incomes are static and people face increasing costs keeping a roof over their head.

It’s not as though service quality is improving but then the money you pay doesn’t actually go to Southern, it goes to the Government, what you pay is unrelated to the service you receive.

The Government created a unique contract for Southern and it’s at the core of all the current difficulties. The management contract involves the company being paid a fixed amount for running the network, the contract was subject to a competitive process meaning companies competed over who could claim they could run the network for the least, as a result we have a successful bidder who has to make cuts if they want to make a profit.

So, instead of rail fares going towards improving local services we’re faced with the loss of ticket offices and conductors. Doesn’t matter if you can’t buy a ticket, Southern still get paid. Doesn’t matter if disabled people can no longer use trains, Southern still get paid. Doesn’t matter if the risks to passengers increase, Southern still get paid and increase their profits by no longer paying out for conductors.

The Government has a contract with Southern, they are the only ones with the power to end this. As I’ve said before, if the Prime Minister really wanted this sorted she could do it in an evening. They managed it in Scotland, why is the UK Government lagging behind?

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