Britons pay twice as much for train travel

19 February 2009

Train fares are twice as expensive in Britain as in other major European countries, according to the government-funded rail watchdog. 
A report from Passenger Focus appears to confirm the suspicion held by many British commuters - that train tickets are more expensive here than elsewhere in Europe.
The report is the first major attempt to compare prices and services in Britain with those abroad, in a meaningful way. Colin Foxall, chairman of Passenger Focus, says its key finding is that commuting to London is expensive when compared with other principal European cities, despite the fact that more people rely on using trains to get to work than elsewhere in Europe.
The average cost of annual season tickets for journeys of 11–25 miles is £1,860 in Britain. In comparison, the equivalent ticket costs £990 in France, £944 in Germany, £788 in Spain and £444 in Italy.
Shockingly, an Italian rail passenger could buy a season ticket for fours years running and would still not have spent as much as a Briton.
Foxall says: "On long distance trains, it is possible to travel more cheaply in Britain than elsewhere in Europe – if you manage to buy an advance purchase ticket at the lowest price. However, our long-distance ‘walk up’ railway is expensive when compared with other countries."
The UK also the most expensive place to buy day return fares for short, medium and long–distance commuter bands. The average unrestricted fare for a trip of three to 10 miles is £6.92, while in Germany it costs £5.08 and in France just £1.85.
On a plus point, the report revealed that Britain offers the most frequent rail service on short and long journeys, while service speed and frequency to London compares favourably to other European Cities.
Passenger Focus hopes to work with the government over the coming months to see address the issues raised from this report, which also looks at rail fares across the country in great detail.
"Fares policy in Great Britain currently assumes that passengers will continue to pay above-inflation price increases year after year, and that demand will continue to grow strongly," says Foxall. "We are now in a very different economic situation and Passenger Focus believes this policy needs to be revisited."

Some of the watchdog’s recommendations include developing discounted travel for frequent commuters who don’t benefit from the season ticket system, such as 10 single journeys for the price of eight. And that the government reviews the 25%/75% split between passenger and taxpayer.

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