UK commuters spend up to six times as much of their salary on rail fares as other European passengers

Commuters on the UK’s privatised railways returning to work 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
















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.