Rail commuters ‘held to ransom’ as season ticket prices rise faster than wages

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Rail commuters are spending up to five times as much of their salary on season tickets as passengers on the continent, a new study has revealed.

Fares will go up by an average of 3.4% on Tuesday, the biggest increase since 2013, covering unregulated fares such as off-peak leisure tickets, although season tickets will go up by 3.6%, sparking protests outside railway stations across the country.

Commute comparison
(PA Graphics)

The TUC said workers travelling from Chelmsford in Essex to London will have to pay 13% of their salary for a £381 monthly season ticket.

That compares with 2% for a comparable commute of around 30 miles in France (£66), 3% in Italy (£65), 4% in Germany (£118) and 5% in Spain (£108) and Belgium (£144).

Season tickets will increase a third faster than wages in 2018, said the TUC.

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.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, 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.”

Mick Whelan, leader of the train drivers’ union Aslef 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.”

Average rise in rail fares in January 2018, by train operating company
(PA Graphics)

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, 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.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian times to improve services for passengers – providing faster and better, more comfortable trains with extra seats.

“This includes the first trains running though London on the Crossrail project, an entirely new Thameslink rail service and continuing work on the transformative Great North Rail Project.

“We keep fare prices under constant review and the price rises for this year are capped in line with inflation, with 97p out of every £1 paid going back into the railway.”

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