The Government announced today that Southeastern will continue to run trains in Kent and East Sussex. Some travellers have expressed surprise at the decision - and even the Rail Minister herself who made the announcement, admitted the company had failed its customers too often in the past.
But that IS the past the company insisted. And today Southeastern promised big improvements, with more services, more high speed trains, and better stations.
Andrea Thomas reports. She spoke to Rail Minister Claire Perry, Hastings & Rye MP Amber Rudd, and Ashford MP Damian Green.
Transport experts have revealed that the decades of neglect on the railway cannot be rectified by short term Government investments.
Ministers recently announced a billion pound investment into infrastructure projects across the country, including Crossrail and HS2.
In a new book, Professors Jon Shaw and Ian Docherty have said these measures do not address the fact that the UK is still behind Europe in terms of its rail system.
They say investment will need to be sustained if UK passengers are to experience the same levels of comfort enjoyed by their continental counterparts.
It’s true we’re seeing impressive levels of investment in the railways at the moment – more than I can ever remember, actually – but there was no real alternative given how little we’ve spent in the last decades. At least this year passengers see some relief as regulated fares will rise only in line with inflation, but we’re still getting appalling value for money. Let’s not let this piece of good news deflect from the fact that further increased investment will be needed to ensure our rail network is fit for purpose in the future.”
Some rail passengers across the South could end up paying a staggering £10,000 a year to get to work over the next 12 months. An annual ticket from Swindon to London will cost around £8000 without tube fares and car parking.
The 3.1% rise is for regulated fares which include season tickets. The increase on unregulated fares, typically off-peak leisure tickets, is not capped.
But a number of these fares, including some on the East Coast route, are going up by much less than 3.1%, with the overall rise in tickets - regulated and unregulated - being 2.8%.
Here are examples of rail fare rises.
Folkestone Central -London £4,984
West Malling-London £3,996
Train companies retain an average of just 3p from every pound paid for rail tickets, with the vast majority of revenue going on maintenance, staff costs and investment in the rail network, according to figures released by the industry association the Rail Delivery Group:
Passengers have become used to train fare rises - and next year will be no different. Although the amount train companies can charge has been capped commuters say a planned 6.2 % increase is still too much and unaffordable.
Our transport correspondent Mike Pearse has been talking to commuters, campaigners and to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
We spoke to rail passengers outside Brighton train station this morning to get their reaction on the increase of rail fares and how the government will cap them in 2014.
Plans to limit the amount by which rail companies can raise ticket prices have been announced as part of the Government's fares and ticketing review published today by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
The review looks at future innovations such as scrapping paper tickets, a code of conduct for train companies and a flexible approach to season tickets which could benefit part-time workers. Some of the ticketing initiatives were announced last month.
Today is just the start of a Government-wide programme to help hardworking people and reduce the cost of living. The Government will be announcing a range of initiatives to help put money back in people's pockets over the next few weeks. By capping fares we are protecting passengers from large rises at a time when family incomes are already being squeezed. We will need to wait for the rail industry to calculate individual ticket prices for next year, but this cap could save some commuters as much as £200 a year."
Mr McLoughlin said the Government was investing more than £16bn in the rail network and said this would make sure it could respond to increasing demand from passengers and strengthen the economy.
Commuters across the south facing season ticket fare increases above the rate of inflation in the new year are being given some respite.
The Government has decided that the ability of train operators to add an additional 5 per cent to some individual tickets, as long as the average rise of regulated fares is maintained at 1 per cent above Retail Price Index inflation, should be limited to just 2 per cent.
From January 2014, no regulated fare, which includes season tickets, can rise by more than 6.2 per cent.
With a new year rise based on the July 2013 inflation rate of 3.2 per cent, some season tickets could have gone up by as much as 9.2 per cent under the old system.
The region's rail commuters returning to work today after the Christmas and New Year break were hit by inflation-busting fare rises. The average increase is nearly 4% up on this time last year.
The rail companies say the rises are needed to pay for improvements but passengers say they are unfair. Mike Pearse reports.
Rail fare rises are the "price we have to pay for investment in our trains". That's what the Sussex MP and Transport Minister Norman Baker told us today. There have been continuous rises ahead of inflation for ten years now.
Commuters and rail unions say the previous Government's policy of pushing up fares must stop before rail becomes ruinously expensive. Our Transport Correspondent Mike Pearse reports.