UK commuters spend up to 5 times as much of their salary on rail fares as other Europeans, finds TUC

  • Biggest fare increase in half a decade comes into force today 
  • Fares set to rise a third faster than wages in 2018 

British commuters face fresh rail fare increases as they return to work today (Tuesday), now spending up to 5 times as much of their salary on season tickets as passengers on the continent, according to new TUC research. 

Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to fork out 13% of their pay for season tickets (£381 a month). 

By contrast, comparable commutes would cost a mere 2% of the average salary in France, 3% in Italy, 4% in Germany, and 5% in Spain and Belgium. 

Country

From

To

Monthly season ticket cost

% of average earnings

UK

Chelmsford

London

£381

13%

France

Étampes

Paris

£66

2%

Italy

Civita Castellana

Rome

£65

3%

Germany

Eberswalde

Berlin

£118

4%

Belgium

Gent

Brussels

£144

5%

Spain

Arenys de Mar

Barcelona

£108

5%


Wages are set to grow by only 2.6% in 2018, while season tickets will go up by 3.6% - over a third faster than wages. 

Unite national officer for the rail industry Bobby Morton said:“Millions of commuters are being held to ransom by the greedy privatised rail companies.

“Rail travellers, who are seeing their wages lag far behind this fare increase, are being asked to take another hit to their incomes to pay for expensive and often unreliable trains. 

“Every day the case for the public ownership of the rail industry grows stronger.” 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Another year, another price increase. Many commuters will look with envy to their continental cousins, who enjoy reasonably-priced journeys to work. 

“Employers can help out by offering zero-interest season ticket loans, or offering more flexible work hours and locations. 

“But ultimately the government need to take our railways back into public hands. That will stop hundreds of millions being siphoned off by private rail firms, and allow us to put passengers first.” 

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “While the British passenger is being pumped for cash, the same private companies are axing safety-critical staff and security on our trains and stations. It’s a national scandal that private profit comes before public safety on our rail network.

“Even worse, with 75% of Britain’s railways in overseas hands, it is the British people who are subsidising state-run rail operations across the continent. 

“The answer to this racket is a full return to public ownership of Britain’s railways and an end to this gross profiteering at the fare-payers expense.” 

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: "Workers have missed out on real pay rises for years. It is unfair that this subsidised industry drives up transport poverty. These fare rises hurt the communities and industries that they should be supporting. 

"And this is without even counting the scandalous cost of parking at certain stations." 

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: "Every year UK passengers are forced to pay more to Holland, Germany, France and Italy all of whom currently own our train operating companies. 

"Yet, it's all talk and no trousers when it comes to taking back control from the foreign companies who own large swathes of our infrastructure including our railways. Money made out of passengers here is invested in fare subsidies there." 

ENDS 

Notes to editors: 

 

Country

From

To

Distance (miles)

Monthly season ticket cost

Average monthly earnings

% of monthly earnings

UK

Chelmsford

London

28

£381

£2,845.17

13.39%

UK

Manchester

Liverpool

31

£302.60

£2,845.17

10.64%

France

Étampes

Paris

30

£66.31

£2,704.70

2.45%

Italy

Civita Castellana

Rome

27

£64.81

£2,139.28

3.03%

Germany

Eberswalde

Berlin

28

£118.15

£2,814.41

4.20%

Belgium*

Gent

Brussels

31

£143.73

£3,166.74

4.54%

Spain

Arenys de Mar

Barcelona

27

£107.57

£2,033.47

5.29%

* In Belgium, employers typically contribute to the cost of the ticket, which in practice would reduce the price further to under £50. 

- Euro figures were converted to pounds at a rate of 0.881752607, the mid-market rate on 1 December 2017. 

- Average full-time wages taken from the OECD’s 2016 figures: bit.ly/2nxnL7D 

- Projected wage growth for 2018 taken the Treasury’s median measure of average earnings in their November forecast : bit.ly/2BFctAi (Page 8) 

- In the 2015/16 financial year, private rail companies paid out £228m in dividends to shareholders. That same year, rail industry received a net public subsidy of £3.1 billion. Figures from Table 3.13 of the Office of Rail and Road’s latest report: bit.ly/2hOBAfd 

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065

Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitetheunion
Facebook: unitetheunion1

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.