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Issue date
  • Rail fares have risen twice as fast as wages in past 10 years
  • Some UK commuters spend more than seven times as much on season tickets as their European equivalents

Today’s (Thursday) rail fare rises of up to 2.7% cannot be justified when the private rail companies have paid out more than £1.2 billion in dividends to shareholders in the last five years, says the TUC.

High ticket prices

The TUC says that working people who rely on trains to get to work are getting a raw deal. In the decade since 2009, fares for commuters have risen by 46%. But the average weekly wage has only risen 23%.

TUC analysis finds that some UK commuters spend more than seven times as much on season tickets as their European equivalents.

Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to fork out 16% of their pay for season tickets (£511 a month). But comparable commutes would cost a mere 2% of the average salary in France, and 4% in Germany and Belgium.

Country

From

To

Monthly season ticket cost 2020

% of average earnings

UK

Chelmsford

London

£511

16%

UK

London

Brighton

£404

13%

UK

Manchester

Liverpool

£259

8%

France

Étampes

Paris

£67

2%

Germany

Eberswalde

Berlin

£119

4%

Belgium

Ghent

Brussels

£150

4%


TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people have had enough of over-crowded and unreliable services.

“The number one priority should be running a world-class railway service, not subsidising shareholders.

“No more excuses - the government must end the failed privatisation and put trains back in public ownership. This would free up money for much-needed upgrades and lower ticket prices for working people.”

Editors note

- Comparison of UK and European season ticket costs

 Country

From

To

Distance (miles)

Monthly season ticket 2020*

Average monthly earnings

% of monthly earnings

UK

Chelmsford

London

 28

£510.59

£3,170

16%

UK

London

Brighton

55

£404.29

£3,170

13%

UK

Manchester

Liverpool

31

£258.90

£3,170

8%

France

Étampes

Paris

40

£66.83

£2,876

2%

Germany

Eberswalde

Berlin

35

£119.10

£3,123

4%

Belgium**

Ghent

Brussels

35

£150.14**

£3,435

4%

* Any permitted route for UK fares
** 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 £1 to 1.14 Euros (the average of the Bank of England exchange rate for Euros for 2019 to date as of 12 December): www.bankofengland.co.uk/boeapps/database/Rates.asp?Travel=NIxIRx&into=GBP
- UK and EU average wages are from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): www.oecd.org/eco/outlook/economic-outlook/
- 2020 Euro ticket prices = 2019 price + CPI projection for country, using OECD figures.
- The TUC took the figures train operator dividends from the Office of Rail and Road. Table 2.14 of its report UK rail industry financial information 2017-18 (30 January 2019) states that the total dividends paid out by franchised train operators in the five years 2013/14 to 2017/18 was £1,213 billion.

- Rail fare and wage rises since 2010

Year

Average wage rise

Rail fare rise

2010

1.5%

8%

2011

1.3%

7.1%

2012

1.1%

4.8%

2013

1.1%

4.2%

2014

1.1%

3.3%

2015

2.5%

2.1%

2016

2.5%

0.3%

2017

2.7%

2.8%

2018

2.6%

3.6%

2019

2.5%

3.1%

Decade to 2019

22.3%

46.8%

- Data on wages is from the Office for Budget Responsibility, and on rail fares from the Office for Road and Rail.