NHS A&E nurse Tunbridge Wells slams Southeastern trains no advanced tickets cashing in coronavirus

A train company has been accused of ‘cashing in’ on frontline NHS staff trying to get to work amid the coronavirus crisis.

Thousands of ‘key workers’ up and down the UK are still having to get public transport while the rest of the country is on lockdown.

But Southeastern has been slammed by commuters for taking advantage of doctors, nurses and teachers travelling on their trains after they scrapped their cheaper ‘advanced’ fares amid the COVID-19 outbreak.  

A&E nurse Kirtsty Wickenden, 35, commutes from Tunbridge Wells in Kent to Guy’s and St Thomas’s in central London every day.

She was furious when she realised her advanced £24 return was no longer available and she had to pay £32.80 a day instead. 

Southeastern, who runs trains from Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge, said the move was due to last-minute timetable changes to reduce the number of services in light of the Prime Minister’s lockdown.

They promised advanced fares will return on Monday, but Ms Wickenden is still furious.

Southeastern has been slammed by commuters for taking advantage of doctors, nurses and teachers travelling on their trains after they scrapped their cheaper ‘advanced’ fares amid the COVID-19 outbreak

Ms Wickenden said: ‘Since Saturday, Southeastern has stopped people from buying advance tickets. I feel like it is cashing in on key workers who are keeping the country running right now.

‘I love my job and I want to stay healthy to continue working but it’s hard enough in these circumstances as it is.

‘When you’re being charged extra to get to work every day it really doesn’t help. I feel like it is taking advantage of a really dire situation.’

The 35-year-old, who has been working as a nurse for five years, said there was no information about why advance journeys were unavailable when booking her tickets online.

She added: ‘Most nurses, like myself, work three shifts a week so it’s not feasible to buy a season ticket.

‘I usually buy an outwards and a return journey separately, one to two days in advance.

‘Doing it this way saves me about £8 a day which is a considerable amount when I’m a nurse and we don’t earn a lot.’

Ms Wickenden’s complaint comes amid a row between London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his predecessor and now Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

A&E nurse Kirtsty Wickenden, 35, commutes from Tunbridge Wells in Kent to Guy's and St Thomas's in central London every day, but her ticket prices have increased

A&E nurse Kirtsty Wickenden, 35, commutes from Tunbridge Wells in Kent to Guy’s and St Thomas’s in central London every day, but her ticket prices have increased 

Mr Khan came under heavy criticism for reducing London Underground services after Tube carriages were pictured crowded with workers this week. 

He argues that construction workers, who make up a large number of those still commuting to work, should be forced to stay at home by the Government and all non-essential projects halted.

But Mr Johnson and Public Health England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty claims the economic risks of halting construction could outweigh the benefits.  

A&E nurse Ms Wickenden described the current situation in the UK as the calm before the storm, as we ‘wait for the virus to peak’.

The NHS worker added: ‘Everybody knows what’s coming, it’s just waiting for the virus to peak. This is why we keep saying to people ‘stay at home’.

‘Our healthcare system is not equipped to deal with the capacity of patients that could come in over the next month if people continue to socialise.

‘You can feel a bit of an impending doom coming. It’s a bit eerie waiting for stuff to start happening.’

But despite increased pressure on the NHS, Ms Wickenden said staff morale has never been stronger.

Commuters pack onto a Central line train into London this morning as people continue to travel into the capital

Commuters pack onto a Central line train into London this morning as people continue to travel into the capital

She said: ‘Having an amazing team is what keeps you going, I couldn’t do it without them.

‘Everyone is staying so positive despite the situation and that is making a huge difference.

‘The support shown by the public has been amazing and it is really appreciated. It would be nice if Southeastern could be a bit more understanding too.’

Southeastern said anyone who has been unable to purchase an advance ticket can request a refund for the difference.

A spokesperson said: ‘We had to introduce a new timetable at very short notice – a process that would normally be planned and implemented over many months.

‘This meant that it wasn’t possible to include advance fares in this week’s timetable. 

‘We’ll be able to make advance fares available once again on certain trains from Monday.’

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