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Rising strain of taking the train.

Byline: Mike Jones newsdesk@walesonline.co.uk

RAIL passengers in the UK spend more of their incomes on commuting than in nearly all European countries, it has been revealed.

Statistics compiled by the TUCorganised Action for Rail (AfR) group today as rail fare rises came in taking up the price of annual season tickets up by an average of 3.1%.

The increase pushes many more commuters into the PS5,000-a-year season-ticket bracket.

The 3.1% rise is for regulated fares which include season tickets. The rise on unregulated fares, typically off-peak leisure tickets, is not capped.

The increase could have been even greater, but Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement in early December that the regulated fare price cap of RPI inflation plus 1% was being changed to RPI plus 0%.

Campaign groups have complained about the annual increase, with the Campaign for Better Transport saying that fares are rising three times faster than wages.

Taking into account fare increases, the Action for Rail group said UK workers on an average salary are now spending nearly 14% of their monthly wages on a PS299 monthly season ticket.

The AfR said that in Europe workers making similar journeys in Germany and France spend around 4% of their salary on train fares, in Spain 3% and in Italy just 1%.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Rail passengers and taxpayers are being poorly served by a privatised rail service that has failed to deliver any of the efficiency, investment and cost savings that privatisation cheerleaders promised. "While the shareholders of the private train operating companies are doing well for themselves on the back of massive public subsidies, passengers are paying the highest share of their wages on rail fares in Europe.

Rail passengers must wonder why they can't have the same cheap and more efficiently run state rail services that exist elsewhere in Europe."

Jason Torrance, policy director of sustainable transport organisation Sustrans, said: "The Chancellor's move to bring an end to the inflationbusting fare rises we've seen over the last decade shows a recognition that rising transport costs are a barrier to economic recovery.

"But commuters will still feel the pinch this new year because salaries aren't increasing by anywhere near the level of inflation. If transport remains so prohibitively expensive, we will continue to restrict travel choices and opportunities to access essential services and employment."

Which? magazine said its analysis showed on average, households spend PS530 a year on public transport with 30-49 year olds spending the most - PS744 on average.

It said only 30% of consumers trust the rail industry to act in their best interests - less than those who trust the banking industry.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "The Government's action to limit rail fare price rises, announced in the Autumn Statement, will help commuters but any increase will be a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze.

"The Government must ensure it is doing everything to put consumers first and help keep the unavoidable costs of living in check."

Bruce Williamson of the campaign group Railfuture, said: "This latest fare rise comes after 10 years of inflation-busting fare increases, meaning that our trains are easily the most expensive in Europe.

"There's no doubt that this will mean increasing financial pain for many ordinary commuters who are facing a cost of living crisis."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Government understands concerns rail passengers have about the costs of fares and the impact they have on household budgets. That is why next year, for the first time in a decade, regulated fares will not rise on average by more than the rate of inflation, offering relief for families and the hard-working people.

"As a result of the economic policies that this government has put in place, the most recent forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility are that by around 2015, fares will be rising in line with wages and salaries."

He went on: "Meanwhile, the fares passengers pay will continue to drive forward the biggest programme of rail modernisation ever, with PS38bn being invested over the next five years.

"That means new state-of-the-art trains, better stations and hundreds of miles of electrified track which will help cut journey times, drive down running costs and stimulate economic growth across the country."

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The increase pushes many more commuters into the PS5,000-a-year season-ticket bracket

Andrew James
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 2, 2014
Words:735
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