Why are UK rail fares so expensive?

Protests at rail stations as anger grows over ‘disgraceful’ 3.1% fare rise

(Image credit: Getty Images)

New rail fare rises that come into force today have been described as a “kick in the wallet” by campaigners.

Train ticket prices in England and Wales increase by an average of 3.1%, while fares in Scotland are up by almost 3%. The rises meant the price of some annual tickets have gone up by more than £200 this morning.

The hikes come despite months of disruption that have seen delays across the network soar to their highest level in 13 years.

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The Times points out that fares have risen by 36% since 2010 - 2.6 times more than the increase in average earnings.

Joining demonstrators outside King's Cross station in London, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the rail fare increases a “disgrace”.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said fare payers are being “battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering”.

Campaign group Railfuture described the price hikes as “yet another kick in the wallet”, while RMT national president Michelle Rodgers noted that they follow an “abysmal” year for train passengers.

However, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blamed unions for the delays and said the Government had made a “record investment” in rail transport.

The rail industry insists that 98p of every pound spent on tickets is invested back into the network.

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer has defended rising fares, saying: “Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy.

“That means more seats, extra services and better connections right across the country.”

A report commissioned by Vouchercloud revealed that Britons pay 54p per mile to use the rail network, making it the second-most expensive nation in Europe for rail travel, after Norway.

Privatisation has played a huge part in the high fares. Yahoo! News reports that since the privatisation of British Rail – which took place between 1994 and 1997 – ticket prices have “rocketed by 22%, with walk-on prices on some routes up by an eye-watering 245%” by 2016.

Critics claim imbalanced government subsidy distribution has also harmed performance on the network.

A study by think-tank IPPR North found more than half of the UK’s total spending on transport networks is invested in London. An estimated £1,943 is spent per person in the English capital on current or planned projects, compared with just £427 in the North.

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