Bedford commuters pay highest train fares in Europe


On the eve of a 3% rail fare increase, Bedfordshire’s Labour MEP Alex Mayer has slammed the increase and said Britain needs to learn from other European railways and reduce fares to encourage people to use trains more.

Bedford commuters returning to work tomorrow, 2 January, will find their annual season tickets now cost an extra £148 to £4836 and, on average, five times more than their European counterparts.

Rail fares in Britain have increased 36% since 2010 which is three times as fast as earnings.

Alex Mayer MEP said: “Give commuters a break. Surely after the delays, cancellations and overcrowding on the railways last year, the government should not be allowing fares to increase faster than many people’s wages. We need to be encouraging people onto trains not putting obstacles in the way.

“It is time to learn from Europe. Startlingly it costs more for the 57 mile commute from Bedford to London than it does to travel across the whole German rail network.

“The Government could have used its power to cap regulated fares, instead they have let train companies off the hook and failed to stand up for passengers.”

Average cost per mile comparison:

  • Britain: 55p
  • Ireland: 27p
  • Belgium: 24p
  • Germany: 19p

In Germany it costs the equivalent of £3,955 for an annual ticket that covers travel across their entire rail network. That’s £880 less than a season ticket for commuters who just want to travel from Bedford to London St Pancras and back each day.

In a statement (GTR) said: “We understand that many of our passengers have had a difficult year. Thameslink services are back on track and on 10 December we introduced 200 extra services [across our network] to complete the rollout of the May timetable. We thank passengers for their patience.

“The Department for Transport approves all fares and receives all ticket sales money for GTR services. We, unlike other rail companies, collect a management fee but do not take a share of ticket revenue.

“Successive governments have decided that passengers paying fares should cover a greater proportion of the cost of running the railway, freeing up taxpayer funding for record levels of investment in infrastructure to improve journeys and support economic growth.”

They also added: “We understand that many of our passengers have had a difficult year and an additional compensation scheme has refunded those worse affected by last May’s timetable disruption up to four weeks’ worth of fares, which is the equivalent to 8% off their fare this year.”

Speaking to The Guardian in November 2018, Paul Plummer, the chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Nobody wants to pay more to travel, especially those who experienced significant disruption earlier this year. Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy.”