UK private rail costs far higher than public ones across Europe

By staff writers
January 2, 2015

Rail campaigners are warning that commuters on the UK’s privatised railways could be spending more than twice as much of their salary on rail travel than passengers on publicly-owned railways in France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The Action for Rail (AfR) campaign has compared average earnings with monthly season tickets covering similar commuter routes across Europe.

The new analysis, published on 2 January 2015, as many return to work after the Christmas and New Year break, reveals that commuters using privatised rail services in the UK are paying higher fares and spending substantially more of their wages on rail travel to work than commuters using publicly-owned railways elsewhere in Europe.

Taking into account fare increases, the analysis gives the example of a UK worker on an average salary who is now spending 17 per cent of their monthly wages on a £391 monthly season ticket from Brighton to London. However, over in Europe workers making similar journeys in Germany spent nine per cent of their salary on train fares, in France 12 per cent and in Spain and Italy just six per cent.

Regulated rail fares, including season tickets, will rise by up to 2.5 per cent today, adding extra misery to the squeeze on living standards, says AfR.

Under the coalition government, fares have risen more than two and a half times faster than average wage increases.

Since 2010, fares have increased by 27 per cent. Three quarters of rail franchises in the UK are now owned by foreign state-owned or backed rail companies. High fares in the UK are in effect subsidising rail investment and lower fares in other countries.

AfR says it 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 £1 billion 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.

Rail campaigners, passengers and rail unions have been outside London Kings Cross mainline station from 8am today (2 January 2014), handing out mock tickets to passengers, which highlight the high costs of fares and privatisation and call for public ownership of the railways.

Trade Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady commented: “This year’s fare hike will hit passengers particularly hard because wages are rising so slowly.

“Rail fares are now consuming a huge proportion of people’s wages, leaving precious little for other bread and butter expenses. On average passengers are now paying £600 more for a season ticket and yet seeing no change in their pay packets.

“The cost to passengers of the failed privatisation of our railways cannot be ignored. We’ve ended up with slower trains and higher fares than countries who have kept their trains in public hands.”

The Action for Rail campaign is backed by the TUC.

* Action for Rail: http://actionforrail.org

[Ekk/3]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.