Issue date
04 Jan 2016

Commuters on the UK’s privatised railways returning to work today (Monday) will face new fare increases, while spending up to six times as much of their salaries on rail fares as European passengers on publicly-owned railways, new analysis has revealed.

Action for Rail, a campaign by rail unions and the TUC, has compared average earnings with monthly season tickets on similar commuter routes across Europe.

The analysis looked at a UK worker on an average salary who is now spending 13% of their monthly wages on a £357.90 monthly season ticket from Chelmsford to London.

By contrast, the average amount of salary going on a monthly season ticket for a similar journey is just 2% in Italy, 3% in Spain and 4% in Germany.

Even in France, which is the closest to the UK for cost, commuters still spend nearly a third (30%) less on season tickets than their counterparts in the UK:

Country

Monthly season ticket

% of monthly median earnings

UK

£358

13%

Germany

£95

4%

France

£234

10%

Italy

£37

2%

Spain

£56

3%

The comparably high costs of the UK’s privatised railways are reflected by public opinion. A separate new poll for Action for Rail of 1,719 British adults by YouGov found that:

  • 61% say train services in the UK are bad value for money
  • 62% think that fares would be cheaper if train companies weren't trying to make a profit
  • 62% support public ownership of train operating companies

The findings come as rail campaigners and workers plan to hold protests at over 60 stations around the country against fare rises and in support of public ownership.

The government point to regulated rail fare rises being capped at the rate of inflation. But Action for Rail says the public will pay for this cap through taxes amounting to £700m over the next five years.

Research shows that more than double this (£1.5bn) could be saved over the same period if the rail franchises up for renewal were returned to the public sector. Researchers at Transport for Quality of Life have estimated that this could fund a 10% reduction in season tickets and other regulated fares from 2017.

Rail campaigners, passengers and rail unions will be outside London Kings Cross mainline station (on the edge of Kings Cross Square) at 8am today (4 January) handing out mock tickets to passengers, which highlight the high costs of fares and privatisation and call for public ownership of the railways.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“It’s hardly surprising that UK passengers think rail travel is bad value for money. They are shelling out far more of their income on rail fares than their counterparts in Europe.

“Years of failed privatisation have left us with exorbitant ticket prices, overcrowded trains and ageing infrastructure. Ministers need to wake-up to this reality instead of allowing train companies to milk the system at taxpayers’ and commuters’ expense.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“Today is national rail rip off day when, along with the looming Christmas credit card bills, the British public awake to another kick in the teeth from the greedy private train companies. We would urge everyone to join with the trade unions to end the money making racket on our rail tracks in 2016. “

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said:

“Profit made on passengers in the UK is not reinvested here, but repatriated to Germany, France, Belgium and Hong Kong to subsidise journeys of passengers there. We need a railway for the future – that means a publicly owned rail service operating in the interests of British passengers, with every penny made in profit reinvested in the railways or in cheaper fares for passengers. “

Unite acting national officer for rail Hugh Roberts said:

"European state-owned rail companies provide excellent services and cheaper fares as part of coherent national economic strategies. The UK government's ideological reliance on the profit-hungry private sector has been a disaster – and the majority of the public wants the railways taken back into public ownership."

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said:

“Taking the railways back into public hands is a popular policy. The vast majority of voters – Conservative included – are fed up with paying sky-high fares so the privatised train companies can take their slice. Commuters travelling into London from Kent and Sussex know their £5,000 a year season tickets would be much cheaper under public ownership.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- Action for Rail looked at the price of season tickets in five EU countries and compared with 2014 annual median full-time earnings, based on OECD statistics.

 

From

To

Distance (miles)

Monthly season ticket £

Monthly median earnings -full time

% of monthly median earnings

UK

Chelmsford

London

29

£358

£2,745

13%

Germany

Eberswalde

Berlin

31

£95

£2,452

4%

France

Etampes

Paris

29

£234

£2,422

10%

Italy

Cerveteri Ladispoli

Rome

29

£37

£1,929

2%

Spain

Arenys de Mar

Barcelona

27

£56

£1,805

3%

- Salary income was taken from: https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=AV_AN_WAGE
- Income and season ticket costs have been converted using the relevant exchanges rates in this table http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/uktrade/uk-trade/october-2015/stb-uk-trade--october-2015.html

- All polling figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,719 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th and 14th December 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

- Transport for Quality of Life research showing potential savings of publicly-owned rail: http://bit.ly/1HO4cqx

- Action for Rail brings together the TUC, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite 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 about the actions please visit www.actionforrail.org