RAIL commuters in north Kent are facing a price hike of eight per cent in their fares next year.
From January 2012 to 2014, season ticket holders will have to fork out for more expensive tickets in a bid by the government to shift rail costs from taxpayers to commuters.
The blow will mean further belt tightening for Dartford and Gravesham commuters who have already seen Southeastern ticket prices rise by an average of 7.8 per cent in January.
Seven day season tickets from Gravesend to London soared to 12.7 per cent while Dartford saw an increase of 8.4 per cent.
But things could get worse.
Rail firms have the flexibility to increase their regulated fares by a further five per cent as long as all their fares work out on average at an eight per cent increase.
This means north Kent residents could be looking at a 13 per cent rise on rail tickets.
Kent County Council’s cabinet member for environment, highways and waste, Councillor Bryan Sweetland slammed the figures.
He said: "It is unacceptable to expect north Kent's rail commuters to pay up to 13 per cent on top of this year's very large fare increases.
“In many cases now commuters are paying out more in rail fares than they are in mortgage repayments.
“It is very clear that north Kent's rail commuters are not being treated fairly."
A Southeastern spokeswoman blamed government policy.
She said: “The cost of season tickets is directly regulated by the government.
“It’s government’s stated policy that passengers should pay more towards the cost of their journey and taxpayers contribute less.
“So subsidy paid to Southeastern by the Department for Transport to operate rail services in this area decreases in line with passengers’ fares increasing.”
Further rail increases imposed by Southeastern will not be announced until November.
NORTH KENT FARES
From January next year, a seven day season ticket from Gravesend to London will go up from £69.80 to £75.50.
But if Southeastern decides to impose an extra five percent increase, commuters will be expected to dig deep to find £78.87.
A seven day season ticket from Dartford to London will see tickets go up from £50.10 to £54.10.
But this could go up to £56.61 if Southeastern agrees a 13 per cent rise.