Due to the historic strength of our local jobs market, with Crawley having to import two-thirds of its workforce from out of town daily, it’s easy to forget Crawley is also a major commuter base. Large numbers of residents already commute to London daily and that figure will only grow as house prices draw families out of the city in search of relatively cheaper property prices.
Unfortunately, this also leaves increasing numbers of Crawley residents vulnerable to rail fare rises and this month the dreaded price hike finally arrived. At a time when households are already struggling with the cost of living, this latest Government-authorised increase is the last thing local families needed. It comes after a long run of annual increases, with a Three Bridges to London season ticket now 50% more expensive than it was under the last Labour Government.
That railway companies demand more and more of people’s take-home pay is bad enough, that our Conservative MP happily lets them get away with is even more disappointing, but what really underlines just how bad things are is that these record price highs have been occurring at the same time as the quality of services have been declining.
As a commuter, I’ve seen local trains consistently growing more cramped, the network has become increasingly unreliable, and the quality of the services commuters receive being stripped back more and more.
The Brighton Mainline is critically short of capacity and if catching a train from Crawley to London is to even remain possible, we desperately need improvements at Windmill Junction. Yet, for all the money being taken out of Southern railway users, this project has yet to receive approval. So, where is all the extra money going?
Much as with all other areas of Government policy it is clear now that areas like ours have become little more than a cashpoint for the Conservatives, giving them the money they need to buy votes in Red Wall seats, and until it becomes clear to them that treating Crawley this way will cost them votes at elections, don’t expect things to change.