Rip-off Britain: Our train fares are triple those on the continent

Sophie Allain reveals the shocking disparity between British fares and those in the continent.


Sophie Allain is the Campaign for Better Transport’s public transport campaigner.

We knew we had some of the most expensive rail fares in Europe, if not the world, but even we were shocked when we compared a sample UK season ticket with four similar European ones. Our UK ticket cost three and a half times more than the most expensive European one and almost ten times (9.7) more than the cheapest one we looked at.

It is not surprising that British passengers are fed up with being ripped off. A national passenger protest is happening today, the first business day after the New Year.

People are heading back to work and ticket offices, train carriages and social networking sites are buzzing with the voices of irate passengers. You can join in by tweeting, texting or calling George Osborne to show your anger at fare rises. All the details can be found at or by following @fairfaresnow on twitter.

Our rail tickets are eye-wateringly expensive. Our European comparisons highlight just how expensive commuting by rail has become. We compared the cost of commuting using a multi-modal season annual ticket into five European capital cities from a commuter town approximately 23 miles from the capital:

• Woking to London, £3,268

• Ballancourt-sur-Essonne to Paris, £924.66

• Strausberg to Berlin, £705.85

• Collado-Villalba to Madrid, £653.74

• Velletri to Rome, £336.17

The bad news is it’s set to get worse. The government is still planning to press ahead with inflation plus three per cent increases in January 2013 and January 2014, meaning fares will be 24 per cent higher by the next election.

When the cost of season tickets is so much higher than other European capitals, the government’s fare rises are starting to affect the UK’s competitiveness. That’s why if the government is serious about promoting economic growth it must also look at reducing planned fare rises in 2013 and 2014 as part of a policy to cut fares and make public transport truly affordable.

See also:

Serious concerns over transport commissioning – how will Greening respond?Matt Dykes, December 16th 2011

Our outdated transport system is running on emptyRichard Dyer, November 17th 2011

Scotland needs to get its transport infrastructure in orderKen Macintosh MSP, October 27th 2011

Boris fiddles as London prepares for transport chaosAlex Hern, October 19th 2011

Boris’s transport boasts are pure piffleRob Jenks, March 31st 2011

38 Responses to “Rip-off Britain: Our train fares are triple those on the continent”

  1. Anonymous

    1. Massive prices.
    2. Massive subsidies.

    With both in place, the question is pretty clear. Rail companies can’t run things. Government’s can’t run things.

    Lets spell it out. Massive subsidies for rail transport should mean cheap prices. It doesn’t.

    1. Pay is too high
    2. Pensions are too generous.
    3. Cost of maintenance for the track is too high
    4. Stupid projects such as Cross rail are undertaken.
    5. Stupid projects such as HS2 are considered.

    [They are stupid because a 2 minute calculation of the cost of servicing the debt, divided by the number of passengers comes up with a price that the ticket buyer’s wouldn’t tolerate]

    Solution. No subsidy. No regulation bar that of safety. No guarantees for pensions. The government gets out of the business completely.

  2. Anonymous

    If you want to see an example of transport and the right, look at Boris.

    140 million on 5,000 bicycles.

    140,000,000 / 5,000 = 28,000 (per bike)

  3. Anonymous

    You want to see the real cause of high fares?

  4. Monika Schwartz

    Rip-off Britain: Our train fares are triple those on the continent, writes Sophie Allain:

  5. Ust Oldfield

    More expensive and worse service. What wouldn't I do to live on the continent?! #farefail

Comments are closed.