South East London rail users paying twice as much as those north of the Thames

A tweet today about the the “classless” nature of London transport rekindled an issue that I feel again needs highlighting – as few others are including those in power.

Did you know that rail users in south east London pay up to twice as much for single journeys than those over the Thames? Imagine if buses had that same difference: a 472 costing £3 while a 69 bus from Canning Town was £1.50? They’d be uproar – yet the rail gap goes unnoticed.

Heading past Greenwich

This difference is due to the fare scale used for pay as you go journeys. There’s the TfL fare scale and a National Rail fare scale used by Southeastern. The TfL rail scale is used by some private franchises in London alongside TfL themselves and is cheaper.

As franchise fares rise each year the gap has grown ever bigger until it’s now double the price for a single journey from Zone 2 to Zone 6.

Slade Green station

Head from Slade Green (Z6) to Deptford (Z2) on Southeastern and it’s £3 off-peak.

Do the same trip over the Thames on c2c rail from Upminster (Z6) to Limehouse (Z2) and it’s £1.50.

During peak times it’s £2.40 on c2c and £4.40 on Southeastern.

Pay double for the ambiance

Do it on London Overground and it’s £1.70 peak. The tube is the same.

This is enough to price some people off rail in south east London.

Other permutations exist but across the board south east Londoners will always pay more. And they then pay more to transfer to other forms of transport such as the tube. Not so for many north of the river.

Political pressure?

I’m always surprised this generally goes unnoticed. South east London borough Councillors are hardly shouting from the rooftops about it. In fact i can’t recall one ever mentioning it including those specifically tasked with the Transport brief

Consultation to the DfT Southeastern franchise process (before it was scrapped) didn’t mention it.

Abbey Wood station

There has been some welcome changes for those in Abbey Wood as journeys from there have switched to the TfL fare scale due to Crossrail even before services commence – though it does leave the bizarre situation of Plumstead passengers paying more for shorter trips.

Pay more from Plumstead

For example, Abbey Wood to Stratford is £1.70 in the peak while from Plumstead it’s £2.70. While good for Abbey Wood, only some trips saw a reduction and it’s not reduced across the board to levels equivalent to journeys north of the Thames.

Yes there’s some TfL fjourneys that creep into south east London (New Cross for London Overground etc) but the vast majority of people will pay more.

Costs will increase further next year for pay as you go journeys next year on Southeastern.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

7 thoughts on “South East London rail users paying twice as much as those north of the Thames

  • Fares on the Upminster line have been on the Underground fare scale since the intermediate stations became part of the District line.

    • Yes and other rail franchises north of the Thames have long charged cheaper TfL fares even if not running alongside a tube line such as the Distirct. Great Western are another who charged less long before part became TfL rail in advance of Crossrail. Oyster trips were less from, say Hanwell in Zone 4 to Paddington in Z1 than equivalents south of the river.

  • Thank you for this article. On top of paying more the actual zoning in southeast London also leaves much to be desired. Really considering the distance to Central London and the number of passengers many of the stations should be moved to cheaper zones.
    Many countries employ polices where the ticket prices are directly linked to distance traveled between stations, quite fair in my opinion or they have unlimited changes time tickets etc.
    London transport is terribly expensive and priced very unfairly on many instances.
    I would not even dream of such revolution as having more expensive central zones, where you can walk or cycle more easily and prices going down as you travel into the outer zones, that would certainly help the poorer of us and the essential workers who need to travel from cheaper zones for work to the center.

  • Yes, why aren’t our councillors and mps making a huge fuss over this? They should insist our fares were brought into line with the rest of London whoever runs SouthEastern.

  • The discrepancy is certainly noticed by those who skip paying fares for smaller journeys. As a percentage game its almost as good odds as being ticketed without a residential permit. The inevitable fine is more than offset by the ‘savings’ made travelling around zones 2-4 without a ticket. Even at London Bridge on some evenings one or two of the barriers are opened at peak times and you see some commuters briefly pause and pull their card or phone away at the last second, gambling that nobody will be at Greenwich or Westcombe Park to catch them.

    I agree with Simon that the distance should be reflected in the cost somewhat, rather than the steep buy-in that Southeastern require. This was originally how the original Capitalcard zones 1-3 were designed: an expensive central zone and substantially cheaper outer zones.

  • Thank you for highlighting this Murky. Lots of people live in SE London because it’s more affordable, so mostly through financial necessity rather than choice as housing is cheaper here. To be charged more to travel into London by South Eastern feels like a significant sting in the tail for people who can probably least afford to pay higher fares (than, say, people who can afford to live north of the river) and in any case it seems extremely unfair that there is such a disparity in the costs. I think we should be getting together to put pressure on whoever it is to get this sorted out – local MP, councillor? Should we start a campaign to see if we can get someone to fight the corner for overburdened and overlooked SE London residents? Would that be the right ‘vehicle’ to use to address the situation or should it go through some other process? Would anyone agree that it could be worth us grouping together to put some pressure on to have this issue looked into? Otherwise nothing will be done and fares will just continue to rise and we will all have to fork out more and more just to travel to work. It feels like a really important issue to me.

    All the best.

    • That’s fantastic idea, campaign or putting pressure on whomever can speak up for us. This is a discrimination for people who are living in SE London.


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