A HIKE in rail fares didn’t get the New Year off to a good start for commuters in south Essex.

As people got back to work on a cold January morning after the Christmas break yesterday (JAN2), they were faced with a 4.2 per cent increase in regulated fares, which includes season tickets, for Greater Anglia and c2c lines.

An annual c2c ticket from Basildon to Fenchurch Street now costs £2,540 compared to £2,440 – an increase of £100.

To travel from Southend Central to Fenchurch Street now costs £3,136 compared to £3,012 last year – an increase of £124.

Meanwhile commuters travelling from Billericay to London Liverpool Street will see the cost of a yearly season ticket go up from £3,000 to £3,124.

The rise was capped at one per cent above inflation after the Government reduced original plans for a three per cent inflation-busting rise in a bid to help families.

Commuters have reacted angrily to the new prices and do not believe the extra cash leads to a better service.

David Freeland, 25, of Riviera Drive, Southchurch, is a credit controller and commutes from Southend East to Basildon.

Although is 8.18am train was not delayed he believes the increase in costs is “unacceptable”.

He said: “We as customers have little or no idea where and how our money is being spent, the trains, lines, arrivals and departures are no better than previous years with delays still in abundance.

“The other issue is that the price increases seem to be largely unadvertised, customers are reliant on local media to make the knowledge public.”

Del Thomas, 31, of Durham Road, Southchurch, is a primary school teacher in Benfleet.

He uses the c2c line from Southend East to Benfleet in the week and at weekends he uses Greater Anglia trains to travel from Southend Victoria to Colchester, via Shenfield, to see his daughter.

He said: “I think the c2c line service is fantastic and I don’t mind a small increase to pay for upkeep of this line.

“Trains generally run on time and are punctual, clean and on the occasions where there are delays the customers are kept well informed.

“Unfortunately, Greater Anglia is the complete opposite. For three months they shut Billericay and ran replacement buses, but I have seen no improvement on the line since.

“Approximately 60 per cent of my journeys on this line were delayed and I really resent having to pay higher fares for such a low quality customer service.

“It is disgraceful and I dread having to travel with them.”

Castle Point councillor Liz Swann, travels to work on the c2c line from Benfleet to Fenchurch Street.

She said: “I have an annual season ticket that goes up year on year and I have not had a pay rise for three years so it’s costing me an absolute fortune.

“It’s hitting me really hard, but I think the service c2c runs is very good so I don’t think there’s much they can do to improve it for the money it costs to travel.”

A Greater Anglia spokesman said: “Annual fare rises help to maintain investment in the railways and are determined largely by government policy as confirmed in the Autumn Statement.”

He added the operator was continuing to push for greater investment in the region's railways alongside MPs and local councils and said performance had improved over the past year to produce a five-year high for the annual average punctuality across the network.

A c2c spokesman added: “In recognition of the current difficult times, we have restricted average off-peak fare increases to the same amount, to maintain the existing ratio between the cost of peak and off-peak travel.”