Rail fares rise almost twice as fast as wages

14 August 2017

Rail fares have risen almost twice as fast as wages since 2010, according to new analysis by the RMT.

The transport union says rail fares have risen by around 32% in eight years, while average weekly earnings have only grown by 16%.  

Regulated rail fares – such as most commuter fares, season tickets and off-peak rail fares – are set by the devolved UK governments.

In England, each January’s increases are capped in line with the previous July’s Retail Prices Index (RPI) rate of inflation, which is due to be released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) tomorrow.  

Unregulated tickets – such as peak travel fares and advance tickets – are set by the rail companies.

This year, regulated and unregulated rail fares rose by 2.3% on average, although increases to regulated rail fares were capped at 1.9%.

But there could be a hefty increase in rail fares next year given RPI stands at 3.5%.  

‘Fare rises easily outstrip wages’

RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, says: “Government policy of suppressing workers’ wages while at the same time presiding over corporate welfare on our privatised railways has resulted in a toxic combination of fare rises easily outstripping wages.”

But a Department for Transport spokesperson counters: “The Government carefully monitors how rail fares and average earnings change, and keeps under review the way fare levels are calculated.

“We are investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers – providing faster and better trains with more seats. We have always fairly balanced the cost of this investment between the taxpayer and the passenger. We are driving the industry hard to improve efficiency to ensure we maximise the value of passengers’ and taxpayers’ investment in the railways.

“On average, 97p of every £1 of a passenger's fare goes back into the railway."

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group – the trade association for train companies – says: “Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to season tickets.

"It’s also the case that many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI. Rail companies are working together to improve performance now, adding thousands more seats over the next 18 months and, longer term, simplifying fares and ticket buying so that the country has the railway it needs to prosper.”

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