THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of profiting from commuters as the annual hike in rail fares hits people returning to work.
The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) published research today which suggested that by 2020 Government income from the railways could triple from £1.1 billion today to £3.5 billion.
The new figures were revealed as a separate trade union backed study claimed that people in this country who commute by train are spending up to six times as much of their salaries on fares as European passengers on publicly owned railways.
Action for Rail, a campaign by rail unions and the TUC, said some UK workers were spending 13 per cent of their monthly wages on rail travel compared with two per cent in Italy.
Train fares in Britain rose by an average of 1.1 per cent on Saturday, despite Network Rail figures showing more than one in 10 trains (10.7 per cent) arrived at their destination at least five minutes late in the past 12 months.
CBT member Martin Abrams said: “Passengers are paying a premium price for a less than premium service, so any profit needs to be reinvested back into the railways and used to keep fares affordable and introduce long-overdue ticketing improvements.
“We want to see a ticketing system that reflects modern working patterns and makes rail travel a viable choice, not just for the UK’s millions of part-time workers, but also for the thousands more who are currently prevented from working due to the cost of the commute.”
The CBT has called for the introduction of flexible season tickets for part-time workers, free travel for under 11s across England and Wales, and regulated fares - which is about half of all tickets and includes annual passes - to be set using the Consumer Price Index measurement of inflation rather than the Retail Price Index.
However Rail Minister Claire Perry said that earnings were outstripping rail fare increases for the first time in a decade.
She added: “We are helping hard-working people with the cost of transport. We’ve put a stop to inflation-busting increases in regulated fares until 2020.
“This will save the average season ticket holder £425 in this Parliament, and means earnings are outstripping rail fare increases for first time in a decade.”
The Action for Rail research which concluded that Britons pay more than European passengers looked at a UK worker on an average salary who is spending 13 per cent of their monthly wages on a £357.90 monthly season ticket from Chelmsford to London.
By contrast, the average amount of salary spent going on a monthly season ticket for a similar journey is said to be two per cent in Italy, three per cent in Spain and four per cent in Germany.
The research was published to highlight protests at more than 60 railway stations by campaigners and rail workers to mark the return to work after the festive break, with fares having increased at the weekend.
In France, which is the closest to the UK for cost, commuters still spend nearly a third less on season tickets than their counterparts in the UK, according to the report published today
A survey of more than 1,700 adults for the campaign group also found that three out of five believed train services in the UK were poor value for money, with a similar number supporting public ownership.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s hardly surprising that UK passengers think rail travel is bad value for money. They are shelling out far more of their income on rail fares than their counterparts in Europe.
“Years of failed privatisation have left us with exorbitant ticket prices, overcrowded trains and ageing infrastructure. Ministers need to wake up to this reality instead of allowing train companies to milk the system at taxpayers’ and commuters’ expense.”