COMMUTERS are facing another “hammer blow” after rail bosses announced plans to increase annual parking charges at a number of Essex stations.

Car parks at Braintree and Kelvedon stations are affected by the price hike, which will see passengers with 12-month passes pay at least an extra £70.

Greater Anglia says the increase will help to cover the cost of improvements which have been made to some of its car parks in the past year.

The changes will see commuters at Braintree station pay £858 for an annual parking pass – up 10 per cent from £780 last year.

A 9 per cent increase has been approved at Kelvedon station, where commuters will have to pay £1,498 – an extra £123 compared to last year.

Annual parking fees at Witham station, which will soon have a new multi-storey car park available to passengers, have been frozen.

Witham and Braintree Rail Users Association chairman David Bigg said: “It’s another hammer blow for commuters.

“The whole impact of these increases is it makes commuters poorer and they clearly aren’t getting value for money.

“It will have a knock-on effect on the local economy because many people will have less money to spend.

“It’s like we have been saying with the increase in fares – all prices should be frozen until the new trains and timetable are brought in.

“Both of those have been delayed, as has Crossrail, so it would be fair to keep things like the car park and ticket prices the same until they were complete.”

Kelvedon Rail Users Association chairman Mark Leslie added: “It’s outrageous the fees have gone up again and they must have easily doubled in the last ten years or so.

“They put up the parking fees year after year because they are not regulated. The system just seems to be abused by Greater Anglia.

“People have no alternative but to drive to Kelvedon Station because of its location and it isn’t served by a lot of public transport. They have no choice but to keep driving and pay the higher fees.”

The increases were introduced by Greater Anglia today.

A spokesman said the rise was set to “ensure” passengers had the best possible chance to find a space at station car parks.

Greater Anglia also claims it is aiming to make it easier for people to travel to its stations by public transport, bike or by walking.

The spokesman added: “We have made some adjustments to parking prices at some of our stations. Some prices have been frozen or gone down.

“All money raised from car park charges is used for improving and maintaining our car parks. During this franchise, we are investing over £25million on car parks at our stations, creating an extra 1,782 spaces, fitting LED lights, installing automatic number plate recognition, improving CCTV and security and re-surfacing.

“This high level of investment on improvements exceeds our projected extra revenue generated by increased prices.”