So here is news that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Our trains are expensive. Very expensive. More expensive than the rest of Europe, as it turns out. In fact, anyone commuting into London can expect to pay four times more than their counterparts who work in cities like Berlin, Brussels, and Rome.
It's the kind of news that makes me glad I left London, and don't have to commute into the office very often.
This report came from the RMT Rail Union, which used the results as an opportunity to slam the government for letting rail companies treat British commuters as "nothing more than self-loading cash cows".
The union's figures show that travelling 27 miles from Basildon to London costs commuters around £264 a month, compared to £127.80 (€143) a month it costs Belgians commuters to travel 28 miles from Antwerp into Brussels. Maidstone to London (35 miles) costs £412.50 a month, compared to £99.80 (€111.67) to travel 36 miles from Luckenwalde to Berlin. Orte to Rome (50 miles) costs £116 (€130) a month, compared to £482.70 a month it costs to travel 48.5 miles from Milton Keynes to London.
Our prices are set to rise in January too, and the Secretary of State for Transport confirmed that the increase will be no higher than the rate of inflation. That's predicted to be between three and four per cent. One can assume the rail companies will raise them as much as they can.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“Anger is mounting over the government’s indifference to the plight of commuters and rightly so. The way that this minority administration turns a blind eye to the great British rail rip-off is an absolute disgrace.
It is a national scandal that UK passengers pay the largest proportion of their salaries in the EU just for travelling to and from work and are forced to endure unreliable and rammed out trains as part of the deal.
It is time that the government stopped foreign rail companies treating commuters as a bovine herd to be packed in and routinely milked with the proceeds shipped abroad to keep fares down in other European cities. The only solution to this racket is public ownership."
I have my own doubts that nationalising the rail system will actually improve the quality of service, but if it means a reduction in ticket prices them I'm all for it. Bring back third class while you're at it. I've been in a train that was literally a metal bench bolted to a wooden floor before, so it's not like the conditions could get much worse.
This report comes just over a week after Passenger Focus published its Spring National Rail Passenger Survey, which concluded that the South East has some of the worst train service in the UK. Southern, South Eastern, Great Northern, and Thameslink all came at the bottom of its Passenger Satisfaction Survey. It also found that fewer than 47 per cent of people believed they received value for money.