UK commuters spend over three times more of their salary on rail fares than most European passengers

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date: 1 January 2014

embargo: 00.01hrs Thursday 2 January 2014

UK commuters spend over three times more of their salary on rail fares than most European passengers

As many people prepare for their first day back to work after the Christmas break, rail campaigners are today (Thursday) warning that British commuters could be spending over three times more of their salary on rail travel than passengers on publicly-owned railways in France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The TUC’s and rail union’s Action for Rail (AfR) campaign has compared average earnings with season tickets covering similar commuter routes across Europe. This analysis, published today, reveals that commuters using privatised rail services in the UK are paying much higher fares and spending substantially more of their wages on rail travel to work than commuters using publicly-owned trains elsewhere in Europe.

Taking into account fare increases, the analysis gives the example of UK a worker on an average salary who is now spending nearly 14 per cent of their monthly wages on a £299 monthly season ticket from St Albans to London St Pancras. However, over in Europe workers making similar journeys in Germany and France spend around four per cent of their salary on train fares, in Spain three per cent and in Italy just one per cent.

The AfR analysis comes at a time when rail campaigners and MPs are calling for a rethink over how Britiain’s railways are run. More than 50 Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Plaid Cymru and SNP MPs have now signed a parliamentary motion calling for the re-nationalisation of the UK’s railways, tabled earlier this year.

AfR believes that high rail fares in the UK are in part down to the additional costs of rail privatisation. Research by campaign group Transport for Quality of Life (TFQL) shows that extra costs of over £1bn per year are being incurred through a combination of debt write-offs, dividend payments to private investors and various administrative and legal costs. TFQL estimate that fare cuts of up to 18 per cent could be achieved if these costs were eliminated by bringing services back within a nationally-integrated railway under public ownership.

While the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement said that the government was sympathetic to passenger and rail union calls for an end to inflation-busting fare rises, campaigners believe UK rail fares will continue to exceed ticket prices of state-run European services as long as privatisation remains in place.

Regulated rail fares will rise between 3.1 and 5.1 per cent from today – more than four times faster than average wage increases – adding extra misery to the squeeze on living standards, says AfR.

Rail campaigners, passengers and rail unions will be at Kings Cross mainline station in London at 8am today (2 January) handing out mock tickets to passengers, which highlight high the costs of fares and privatisation and call for public ownership of the railways.

Protestors will be joined at Kings Cross by ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan and RMT General Secretary Bob Crow.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rail passengers and taxpayers are being poorly served by a privatised rail service that has failed to deliver any of the efficiency, investment and cost savings that privatisation cheerleaders promised.

“While the shareholders of the private train operating companies are doing well for themselves on the back of massive public subsidies, passengers are paying the highest share of their wages on rail fares in Europe. Rail passengers must wonder why they can’t have the same cheap and more efficiently run state rail services that exist elsewhere in Europe.”

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “Passengers are fed up with the poor value they are being offered by Britain’s privatised train companies and want the government to do something about it.

“We warned a year ago that more and more people are falling into transport poverty and these new figures make this point well. It cannot be right that passengers are being forced ­– because they have no meaningful choice – to pay through the nose just to get to where they work.

“These new fare rises are only going to exacerbate the problem and drive even more people into transport poverty.”

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “2014 is all set to be another year of racketeering and greed on Britain’s privatised railways. Passengers will continue to pay the highest fares in Europe to travel on creaking, overcrowded trains where raw sewage is dumped on the tracks because the private operators will not stump up for tanks and the staff to empty them. That is a sickening indictment on our privatised railways as we head into the New Year.

“The only solution – and one that’s opposed by all our main political parties – is total renationalisation and the return of our railways to complete public control.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “David Cameron has increased rail fares by 20 per cent since arriving in Downing Street – an intolerable burden on passengers who have seen their real wages fall over the same period.

“Rail fares have more than doubled since the Conservatives sold off our railways 20 years ago. Our passengers are now paying the price – the highest fares in Europe.”

Unite National Officer Julia Long said: “This is startling proof that British commuters are being ripped off by sky-high train fares which have been caused by privatisation. Travellers will rightly be angry with the train operating companies when they see how their European colleagues spend far less on rail fares.

“UK commuters spending over three times more of their salary on rail fares than European workers is proof that rail privatisation is a busted flush and that Britain needs national rail under public ownership.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- AfR is a campaign involving the TUC, and its affiliated unions with members working on the railways – ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite. Its aim is to work with passenger groups, rail campaigners and environmentalists to campaign against cuts to rail services and staffing and to promote the case for integrated, national rail under public ownership. For more information please visit www.actionforrail.org

- The AfR analysis of average earnings and season ticket prices for similar commuter journeys is available below:

Country

From

To

Distance (miles)

Monthly season ticket (equivalent costs)

Annual median earnings

Monthly median earnings

% of monthly median earnings

UK

St Albans

London St Pancras

24

£299

£26,312

£2,192.67

13.64

Germany

Nauen

Berlin

25

£107

£29,761

£2,480.08

4.31

France

Rambouillet

Paris

34

£96

£29,946

£2,495.50

3.85

Italy

Fregene

Rome

23

£28

£24,159

£2,013.25

1.39

Spain

Sitges

Barcelona

23

£64

£22,738

£1,894.83

3.38

Earnings data from www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ashe/annual-survey-of-hours-and-earnings/2013-provisional-results/stb-ashe-statistical-bulletin-2013.html and ticket prices data from http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=AV_AN_WAGE

- EDM 419 Public Ownership of Rail can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/419

Media enquiries:
TUC Alex Rossiter   M: 07778 158175    E: arossiter@tuc.org.uk

ASLEF Keith Richmond    M: 07977 498 794    E: richmondk@aslef.org.uk

RMT Geoff Martin    M: 07831 465 103    E: G.Martin@rmt.org.uk

TSSA Tom Condon    M: 07894 390 480    E: condont@tssa.org.uk

Unite Ciaran Naidoo    M: 07768 931315    E: ciaran.naidoo@unitetheunion.org

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