Category Archives: fair's fare

Southeastern let down long-suffering commuters – again

Southeastern Must Do BetterI have been deluged by tweets over the past few hours by commuters furious with Southeastern trains for cancelling trains across their network, except HS1, even apparently dumping passengers at stations far from home.

To add insult to injury Southeastern are still forcing people to pay £ supplements to travel on HS1. I am demanding such charges be refunded by Southeastern.

Kent MPs were told by Southeastern at several presentations that they had now put in place proper contingency preparations for snow, and that lessons had been learnt from previous years, yet nothing really seems to have changed.

A blanket cancellation policy for what has initially been far short of blanket snowfall is pathetic.

It is a Friday night, the worst time for many commuters to be let down. Yet Southeastern haven’t even had to deal with train drivers not being able to get in from home, or get trains back in place for a next morning commute.

Where is Charles Horton? Will anyone listen to his explanations?

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Mark Reckless welcomes new train station for Rochester

Campaigning for a Fair Fare at Rochester station

Mark Reckless MP campaigning at Rochester station for a fairer deal for Medway commuters

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the news that Rochester railway station is set for a massive £26m rebuild.

The proposals, which are part of Network Rail’s scheme to invest £37bn in rail infrastructure across the UK, will see the station move from it’s current location at the Chatham end of Rochester High Street to Corporation Street opposite the cathedral in the heart of Rochester. Work is expected to be completed in 2015.

Speaking of the proposed plans, Mark Reckless said:

“Following my successful campaign in 2009 to get rush hour fast services to Victoria and Cannon Street to stop at Rochester, the station has seen a considerable increase in passengers using the station for their daily commute.

The proposed plan to rebuild the station as set out by Network Rail will come as a welcome boost for many of the hard-pressed commuters in my constituency who, for too long were hit by RPI+3% increases with no commensurate improvement in the service or facilities which they use on a daily basis.

This new station will be better appointed and more convenient for many local residents. Since it will be further away from Chatham station, the move will strengthen the case for having more peak commuter services stop at Rochester. The move and associated improvements to signalling should also cut journey times to London and make Rochester more attractive for commuters.”

For further information on Network Rail’s plans for the South East click here.

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Filed under commuters, conservatives, fair's fare, hs1, mark reckless, medway, medway council, railway, rochester, rochester and strood, southeastern, strood

PM has moved the right way this week

The Prime Minister delivered an accomplished, almost masterly speech at Conference, the perfect riposte to Ed Miliband, but also a Prime Minister communicating his mission in a way few can match. Like many I leave Birmingham with greater enthusiasm for our leader, believing that both party modernisation and the deficit reduction plan are a platform, from which to:

  1. support all who strive for success; and
  2. maintain our country as something more than part of a declining EU.

The Prime Minister did not mention Europe at all in his speech except for a reference to his December ‘veto’, but that was because he had already burnished his previously tarnished credentials in this area.The Prime Minister over the weekend, and the Foreign Secretary late last week, both suggested that seeking ‘fresh consent’ from the British people on the EU need not mean a referendum and could instead be done at a general election.

I gave my reaction to that on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Monday lunchtime (as shown below) that we surely couldn’t go into a general election saying that voting Conservative would constitute giving consent to the EU, and that we needed a real referendum on whether we would stay part of the EU.

I was delighted therefore to hear the Prime Minister’s remarks on the Today programme as I drove back to Birmingham on Tuesday, that he now accepted that a referendum would be the sensible way to resolve the matter.

Further, although David Cameron still said he was against having a straight in/out referendum now, he was apparently open to a referendum on EU membership when discussions on treaty change clarified what the ‘in’ option would mean for the UK.

Two and a half years ago I felt almost alone, there was of course the irrepressible Douglas Carswell, in campaigning for such a referendum on EU membership. Now it seems mainstream – but I will be keeping a very close eye on the small print.

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Filed under commuters, conservatives, david cameron, douglas carswell, economy, europe, Eurozone, fair's fare, mark reckless, rochester and strood

At Last! Victory for our Rail Fare Campaign

MPs Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch in ChathamMark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister earlier today that rail fare increases for 2013 are to be capped at RPI+1%.

Hailing this major victory for hard-pressed commuters, Mark Reckless said:

At last after years of campaigning, particularly with Tracey Crouch MP, both in public and equally importantly by lobbying ministers in private, we have ended Labour’s disgraceful policy of increasing Southeastern rail fares by 3% over inflation annually.

By exposing the effect it had when Labour used our commuters as guinea pigs for RPI +3% we have succeeded in protecting commuters nationally.

I would like to thank Radio 4 for the support which they gave me with the campaign, including coming to Grain at 6am and then Strood to meet commuters getting the coach to London because they could not afford the train.

A victory for long-suffering Southeastern commuters with whom I will now work to stop even 1% above inflation increases as soon as we possibly can.

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Filed under commuters, conservatives, economy, fair's fare, hs1, mark reckless, medway, railway, rochester and strood, southeastern, tracey crouch, transport

BBC discover coach commuters priced off rail

BBC Radio 4 has followed up my Today programme interview on Monday opposing rail fare hikes.

They report from Grain and Strood after I told them that many people had to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning to get the coach to London because they can’t afford the train.

The report highlights the increased numbers which have had to switch to usually slower coach travel after the last Labour government singled out Southeastern commuters as guinea pigs for an RPI+3% fares regime.

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Has Evan Davis any idea how much we pay to the EU?

Many listeners to the Today programme earlier will have heard presenter Evan Davis, previously a BBC economics correspondent, make the astonishing claim that, if the government borrowed to build social housing, this would “improve the national debt”.

Not quite as many will have heard my interview with him at 7.20am when he pretty much shouted me down for suggesting that we could avoid a hike in rail fares if we stopped:

a) putting benefits up by more than increases in wages for people in work; or
b) paying £19.2 billion a year to the EU.

Having shouted me down, Evan Davis then assured BBC listeners that leaving the EU would only fund a small decrease in rail fares.

For the record annual spending on rail fares on the latest available data was £6.6 billion. So, if we left the EU, the government could if it wanted make the train network completely free. Indeed it could also pay for every single train journey (£11 billion when we include the £4 billion or so of taxpayer funding), and have £8.5 billion left over.

I know that this is an issue on which Evan Davis has form, since earlier this month Radio 4 broadcast a debate on the EU chaired by Evan Davis in which I and others spoke against Sir Stephen Wall, previously Britian’s top EU civil servant.

Since we are the EU’s largest market, and they sell more to us than we do to them, it would obviously be in their interest to have a free trade agreement with the UK were we to leave the EU.

Nonetheless, since pro-EU commentators, who are so over-represented in BBC output, scaremonger that we could face a tariff wall outside the EU, I made the point that the total amount of such tariffs could not under WTO rules be more than between £5 billion and £6 billion.

I then observed that this was only a fraction of our budget contribution to the EU. Hence, in the highly unlikely event of the EU putting up a tariff wall against the UK, our government could if it wished redirect that fraction of our EU budget contribution to pay any tariffs faced by firms exporting from the UK, while still having a lot of cash previously sent to the EU left over.

But Evan Davis interrupted me, first to tell BBC listeners that £5-6 billion (in any event a top-end estimate) was not a fraction of the EU budget, and then – contradicting himself – that, even if it were, it would be “a very large fraction”.

For the record £5-6 billion is between a quarter and a third of the annual £19.2 billion which we now pay to the EU.

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Filed under bbc, benefits, commuters, conservatives, europe, Eurozone, fair's fare, mark reckless, medway, MP, railway, rochester, rochester and strood, southeastern, strood, transport

Southeastern Timetable Consultation – Have Your Say

Mark Reckless is inviting commuters based in the Rochester and Strood constituency to have their say on the proposed changes to the Southeastern timetable which will come into effect on 10th December 2012.

Copies of the proposed timetables can be downloaded below.

Southeastern are proposing to make a number of changes on both the High Speed and Mainline/Metro services which may affect local commuters so it is important to ensure that everyone has their say.

Rail users can comment directly on the proposed changes via the Southeastern website – click here.

Alternatively, Mark would like to hear your views on the timetables, and on Southeastern’s performance generally. All submissions will be forwarded on to Southeastern’s management as part of the consultation. Please use the form below to submit your views but please note that Mark is only able to speak on behalf of commuters who reside in the Rochester and Strood constituency.

Timetables

Chatham line Monday to Friday

Chatham line Saturday

High Speed Monday to Friday

High Speed Saturday

Feedback Form

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Filed under chatham, commuters, fair's fare, hs1, hs2, mark reckless, medway, railway, rochester, rochester and strood, southeastern, strood, transport

Mark Reckless MP Welcomes Rail Operator Fines

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the news that rail operators may be fined in future for failing to provide adequate information to passengers.

Following an investigation by the Office of Rail Regulation into disruption during the bad weather last year, rail operators such as Southeastern now face being fined if they fail to improve their communications with passengers about services.

Mark Reckless responded to the news by saying:

“Southeastern appear to now treat their franchise as a cash cow. During the snow in December, information provision by Southeastern was abysmal and I am delighted that, in future, they may be fined if they continue to let down the travelling public in this way”.

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Poll: Should Southeastern Be Stripped Of Franchise?

Please feel free to show your support by leaving a comment below

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Filed under campaigns, chatham, commuters, conservatives, fair's fare, hs1, mark reckless, medway, medway council, railway, residents, rochester, rochester and strood, southeastern, transport

Southeastern ‘Not Fit For Purpose’

Mark Reckless campaigning for a fair fareMark Reckless MP calls for ‘not fit for purpose’ Southeastern Trains to be stripped of its franchise ‘as soon as possible’.

Following Southeastern’s Nightmare before Christmas where the managing director of the rail firm, Charles Horton, was hauled into Westminster to explain to Kent MPs the company’s abysmal failure to cope with the snow at the start of December, Mark has slammed Southeastern’s decision to increase season ticket prices by 9% or £276 for hard-pressed commuters in Rochester and Strood.

Speaking on the subject, Mark said:

“I have become increasingly frustrated with Southeastern Trains.  I have tried very hard to work with Southeastern to help it deal with the concerns of rail users in the Rochester and Strood area, but I have now come to the conclusion that the company is not fit for purpose.

Southeastern’s attitude to its customers is, in my opinion, nothing short of disgraceful. I have received numerous complaints from constituents regarding the level of service, or lack thereof, provided by Southeastern. 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 average income in Medway is less than many other areas of Kent, e.g. Maidstone and Faversham (which enjoy comparable fares), and there is very strong competition from local commuter coach companies. One would have thought therefore that Southeastern might use the flexibility it now has to hold fare increases in Medway below the average, yet they are imposing a 9% increase in fares, higher than the 7.8% average they are allowed.  Southeastern’s actions are looking increasingly commercially self-defeating.

This is not the action of a sensible competitor and is simply unjustifiable. Why should commuters to London from Strood and Rochester pay virtually the same as those from Rainham and nearly as much as those who commute twice the distance from elsewhere in Kent?

Mark Reckless with Fares Fair campaigner Chris Irvine

Mark Reckless with Fares Fair campaigner Chris Irvine

Having worked closely with Chris Irvine’s Medway Fares Fair campaign, I have long considered, but not previously accepted, their argument that Southeastern should be stripped of its franchise.

However, the distribution of these latest fare increases, combined with the news that Southeastern commuters will not enjoy an automatic season ticket discount despite the pitiful performance in December, suggests that Southeastern Trains is beyond redemption.

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.”

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