/ Travel & Leisure

Can commuters cope with train fare increases?

Interior of Liverpool Street Station in London

If the rude awakening from a routine of lie-ins and Quality Streets isn’t bad enough, rail commuters are most likely to be returning to work with above-inflation train fare increases this morning.

Across the whole rail network the average fare will today cost you an extra 3.9% and the average season ticket will cost 4.2% more than it would have done in 2012. But on some unregulated routes fares have gone up by as much as 11%.

Research from the Campaign for Better Transport suggests that on average, UK fares are 20% higher than European rail prices, and London commuters pay twice as much for their season tickets as their counterparts in other major European cities.

Personally, I’ve seen an extra £144 added onto my annual season ticket from Hertfordshire into London. Getting to and from work will now cost me the princely sum of £3,392 a year.

I’m lucky that I can use a season ticket loan from my employer to fund the cost upfront but it still takes a chunk out of my salary every month that makes my eyes water. And for anyone who purchases their ticket monthly or weekly, the hit on your wallet is likely to be even bigger.

Sending budgets off the rails

The cost of travel is putting a severe strain on already overstretched budgets. In the South East, for example, commuters are often spending more than 15% of their salaries getting to work. Some people have had enough and according to our latest Consumer Tracker nearly a third of people say they are planning to cut their spending on public transport over the next few months.

I think people would be a little more accepting if they felt they were getting good value for money. But it’s difficult to stomach fare raises for future upgrades and improvements that may take years to come into effect.

Maybe I’m just too cynical, but I have not seen much evidence of improvements over the past few years. There seem to be delays aplenty, and over crowding in carriages. In fact, some trains in the UK are now overcrowded by as much as 180%.

Do you feel you get value for money from your train services? Have you been priced out of public transport?


Data I have seen shows that season tickets have increased by 40% over the last 5 years. Petrol prices have increased by 35%. So commuting (and travelling) overall has been affected, not just rail. The cost is a consequence of travelling to work. It needs to be considered against the cost of housing, remuneration and so on. Should we subsidise people travelling?

George says:
3 January 2013

Malcolm, it’s not a matter of subsidising travel, though if push came to shove, then yes we should subsidise it and more than we do now.

The issue is not that there is not enough money but where it is going. We have a costly and fragmented rail network in this country where private profits come before passengers. It’s time to change that! http://www.farefail.org


Geoge, the Govt., I understand, already subsidises rail to 35% of total revenue and is trying to reduce this. I don’t see why the taxpayer should help pay for people to travel to work. Many who do have made a choice as to where they live and work and presumably take travel costs into account when doing so. Commuters put a particular stress on the rail system by creating peak loading – perhaps campaigning for staggered working hours would be helpful in easing both congestion on trains and the need to provide the additional capital needed to support them?
Motoring, bus and coach costs have apparently risen proportionately more than rail over the last few years (railway-technical.com). As far as I know motorists travel costs are not subsidised.
Perhaps someone can provide information on the way rail companies’ revenues are split between capital and operating costs, payments to /subsidies from Govt. and profits. Facts are always useful!


I agree, Malcolm. It would also be good to get more people living close to where they work, without rising transport costs forcing this to happen.

George says:
3 January 2013

Malcolm, you write “As far as I know motorists travel costs are not subsidised.” Really? Who pays for road construction and maintenance? Who pays for traffic cops?

Public investment in transport – all transport, road, rail and sea – is necessary because of the huge return it creates for our economy. This isn’t a controversial point.

Your point about staggering working hours would be great in an ideal society but we don’t live in one of those – until we do let’s not ignore the real issue here, which is private train operators making massive amounts of cash from taxpayer and farepayers’ expense.


@Malcolm R
Road travel is subsidised according to a study by Dresden University (http://tinyurl.com/abe2t3e).
The annual cost of UK roads is about £48bn taking into account the cost of KSI’s on the road (lost productivity, NHS costs, police investigation etc.). Total revenue raised from all taxes (fuel and VED) is about £38bn leaving a shortfall of £10bn.

In addition you need to consider the volume of peak hour commuters that rail shifts which the road infrastructure would be unable to accommodate.

Subsidy of rail is essential for the economy.


George, would you list the TOCs turnovers and net profits so we can see where the money goes please?


You may have already seen this, but the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has produced a chart showing a breakdown of how every £1 of income is used (on average):



Katie, thanks for that.
ATOC’s breakdown isn’t very informative. I would have preferred a breakdown consolidating all costs (including Network Rail and train leasing) into operational costs, capital reinvestment, management costs and profit. This would give passengers a clearer idea of how much of their ticket money is usefully spent on getting them from A to B.