British commuters face fresh rail fare increases as they return to work this week, now spending up to 5 times as much of their salary on season tickets as passengers on the continent, according to new TUC research.
The biggest fare increase in half a decade comes into force this week, with fares set to rise a third faster than wages in 2018.
Someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will have to fork out 13% of their pay for season tickets (£381 a month).
By contrast, comparable commutes would cost a mere 2% of the average salary in France, 3% in Italy, 4% in Germany, and 5% in Spain and Belgium.
Wages are set to grow by only 2.6% in 2018, while season tickets will go up by 3.6% – over a third faster than wages.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Another year, another price increase. Many commuters will look with envy to their continental cousins, who enjoy reasonably-priced journeys to work.
“Employers can help out by offering zero-interest season ticket loans, or offering more flexible work hours and locations.
“But ultimately the government need to take our railways back into public hands. That will stop hundreds of millions being siphoned off by private rail firms, and allow us to put passengers first.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“While the British passenger is being pumped for cash, the same private companies are axing safety-critical staff and security on our trains and stations. It’s a national scandal that private profit comes before public safety on our rail network.
“Even worse, with 75% of Britain’s railways in overseas hands, it is the British people who are subsidising state-run rail operations across the continent.
“The answer to this racket is a full return to public ownership of Britain’s railways and an end to this gross profiteering at the fare-payers expense.”
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said:
“Workers have missed out on real pay rises for years. It is unfair that this subsidised industry drives up transport poverty. These fare rises hurt the communities and industries that they should be supporting.
“And this is without even counting the scandalous cost of parking at certain stations.”
Unite national officer for the rail industry Bobby Morton said:
“Millions of commuters are being held to ransom by the greedy privatised rail companies.
“Rail travellers, who are seeing their wages lag far behind this fare increase, are being asked to take another hit to their incomes to pay for expensive and often unreliable trains.
“Every day the case for the public ownership of the rail industry grows stronger.”