UK rail fares six times higher than Europe, say unions

Posted On: 
3rd January 2017

British rail passengers are paying up to six times more for their commute than workers in Europe, according to a report by a group of trade unions.

Commuters can pay up to six times more in the UK than in Europe.
PA Images

While those travelling from Luton to London spend approximately 14% of their monthly salary on trains, the average in France is just 2%, and 3% in Germany and Italy.

Rail fares have more than doubled in the last decade, compared to earnings growth of 24% and inflation of 26%.

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Action for Rail, a coalition of trade unions, found that while the 32-mile trip from Liverpool to Manchester cost £292 per month, the 34-mile commute from Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris cost just £61.

Union bosses used the figures to argue that privatisation of rail services had failed, contrasting the UK’s model with the largely publicly-owned rail services in other European nations.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said British commuters “will look with envy” at their European counterparts.

“Years of failed privatisation have left us with sky-high ticket prices, overcrowded trains, understaffed services and out-of-date infrastructure,” she said.

“Private train companies are milking the system, and the Government is letting them get away with it.”

Protests against fare rises and private ownership are planned at more than 100 stations today.


In October, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling warned that the Government must defend private railways and avoid a “disastrous” move towards public ownership.

"We have a battle to fight to remind people of the benefits that privatisation brings and of the inefficiencies of the state in trying to run those services in the past,” he said.

"It would be a disastrous retrograde step in my view and it is a battle we have to win over the next five years to make sure these ideas are never allowed anywhere near government."

Earlier this month, Mr Grayling announced plans for a new line between Oxford and Cambridge to be privately financed, while keeping ownership of the track in the public sector.

He said it was a regret that the previous Tory government under Sir John Major had sold off the train and track management responsibilities separately.

"Train companies take the blame for the problems of Network Rail – and Network Rail has little or no contact with passengers, and so has had little reason to focus on the best possible customer service,” he said.

But RMT general secretary Mick Cash, whose union is in the midst of a dispute with the Transport Secretary about who closes the doors of trains on Southern Rail, said British consumers’ inflation-busting fares were subsidising French trains.

“British passengers are paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed services while the private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank,” he said.

“Companies like Southern Rail and their French owners are siphoning off cash to subsidise rail services in Paris and beyond.”

The general secretary of Aself, Mick Whelan, added: “It is scandalous that the Government is allowing privatised train companies to make even more money for providing an ever-poorer service.

“We have the most expensive railway in Europe and the train companies, aided and abetted by this government, are about to make it even more costly for people to travel.”