Rail travellers have yet again been hit by fare increases, up 2.7 per cent, which came into effect just after New Year’s Day on January 2.
New research from the TUC has found that since 2009, commuter fares have risen a whopping 46 per cent, while wages have trailed behind, rising only 23 per cent over the same time period.
Now, UK commuters spend up to seven times more on season tickets than their European counterparts.
The TUC analysis found that a worker on an average wage would have to spend an eye-watering 16 per cent of their pay for a monthly season ticket of £511 from Chelmsford to London, while in a France, the average worker will spend just 2 per cent of their wages on a comparable commute. In Germany and Belgium, the average worker will spend 4 per cent.
Some annual season tickets have risen by more than £100, with annual season ticket from Reading to London rising to £4,736, up £132. An annual season pass from Gloucester to Birmingham has spiked by £118, now totalling £4,356, while Glasgow to Edinburgh season ticket has skyrocketed by £116 to £4,200.
As fare rises, announced by industry body Rail Delivery Group in November, went into effect last week, German travellers were treated with altogether better New Year’s news. For the first time in 17 years, fares for long-distance rail travel in Germany will drop – in an effort to fight climate change.
Travellers taking trips of longer than 31km on Deutsch Bahn’s Intercity Express trains will from the new year enjoy a 10 per cent drop in fares.
The TUC said that against such a backdrop, rail fare hikes in the UK cannot be justified, especially in light of the fact that private rail companies have handed over £1.2bn in dividends to shareholders in the last five years.
“Working people have had enough of over-crowded and unreliable services,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“The number one priority should be running a world-class railway service, not subsidising shareholders,” she added.
“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.”
Unite national officer for the rail industry Harish Patel agreed.
“Every year, as regular as clockwork, rail travellers receive the post-Christmas slap in the face with daylight robbery rail fare increases,” he said.
“If Boris Johnson’s newly minted affection for working people means anything at all, he would be taking the rip-off privately owned rail companies by the scruff of the neck and bringing them back into public ownership in the name of his so-called ‘People’s government’.”