Southeastern train service 'not good value for money'

Southeastern train
Image caption Southeastern trains covers Kent, and parts of Sussex and London

Nearly half of commuters believe that Southeastern trains does not offer "good value for money", a BBC survey has found.

The survey, carried out on behalf of the BBC by polling company Populus, marks the start of the first day of the company's renewed four-year franchise.

The franchise, run by Govia, covers Kent, and parts of Sussex and London.

Neville James, who commutes from Ebbsfleet, said it was costing him £2 a minute to use the service.

"I have to stand on the train... frequently they're cancelled," he told BBC Radio Kent.

'Paying a fortune'

The survey also found 70% of people were satisfied with the experience of using Southeastern.

It was carried out by Populus and sampled 1,000 commuters. It found:

  • 30% agreed Southeastern offered "good value for money" and 47% disagreed
  • 70% were "satisfied" with the experience of using the franchise
  • 62% believed there should be more competition along the route
  • 45% wanted Southeastern to run the next franchise in four years

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark said: "Across the whole region... people feel the biggest problem is the sheer value for money.

"If you're paying £4,000 a year that is a huge sum of money and you quite rightly expect a good service for that.

"People are right to be critical when they're paying a fortune and things go wrong."

David Statham, managing director of Southeastern, said: "It's important we address those things that have come up through your survey and the national passenger survey and we start to deliver on things that passengers think are really important - better information, better train services, better punctuality and an upgrade of our stations and our train fleet."

'Low profit'

Annual season ticket prices to London terminals vary, depending on which part of Kent a commuter is travelling from, and whether they choose to use the high-speed service.

From Deal it could cost up to £5,996, while from Sevenoaks a passenger would have to pay up to £3,252. The prices would be higher if travel on the underground was required.

Richard Dean, Southeastern's train service director, said fares were mandated by the Department for Transport, and it would be unaffordable to set them any lower.

He said: "The reality is that the profit that Govia can make out of the franchise is capped.

"Obviously if we make more profit we give it back to the government, if we make less profit then we effectively go out of business... we are capped at a very low level of profit."

Mr Dean explained that the government's objective was "to get taxpayers to pay less and fare-payers to pay more for using the trains, and it does mean that fares have gone up".

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