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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 09:43 GMT
UK travel costs highest in Europe
Train tickets
UK passengers spend 3.8% of their disposable income on fares
Britain has higher transport costs than anywhere else in Europe, research commissioned for the BBC has revealed.

The study found people in the UK spend 15% of disposable income on transport and double the amount on fares spent by those in other European countries.

Researchers also found that people spend 20 minutes longer travelling to work each week than 10 years ago.

Increases in rail fares in the last few years and high levels of fuel duty are being blamed for the high costs.

Fare costs

Doug McWilliams, of the Centre for Economics and Research, which carried out the study for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said: "The main thing we have discovered is that we in the UK pay more for our transport than anyone else does in Europe.

"We spend 15% of our disposable income on transport and of that 3.8% is on fares.

"Now, the amount we spend on fares is nearly double what they spend in France, Germany and Italy, the other main European countries."

The BBC News website found that a standard off-peak single ticket between London and Edinburgh cost 97.20.

I think we can criticise all governments but particularly the present one for a lack of focus
Doug McWilliams
Centre for Economics and Research

A similar length journey between Paris and Bordeaux cost 70.75, while the 310 mile trip between Madrid and Barcelona cost 47.50.

Mr McWilliams said UK commuters also spent more in money and time than anyone else in Europe on getting to work.

"More importantly we spend 20 minutes more travelling every week than we did 10 years ago."

The government had a good record on investing in transport but had not focused the spending correctly, Mr McWilliams said.

As an example he said buses had been heavily subsidised but had seen a reduction in productivity.

"We are not going to solve the transport problem overnight," Mr McWilliams said.

"However, I think we can criticise all government's but particularly the present one for a lack of focus."

A First Great Western train
First Great Western was among the train firms which raised fares

The study comes after train companies introduced above-inflation price rises for rail tickets at the start of the year.

Many areas' regulated fares, which include season tickets and account for 40% of tickets sold, have risen by 4.3% - about 1% above inflation.

Meanwhile, the 60% of fares which are set by private operators increased by up to 7.3%, which is nearly three times the government's 2.7% target rate of inflation.

On many main lines it is the fourth successive year in which tickets have risen by more than inflation.

Train companies say the extra money is to pay for service improvements.

The rises were heavily criticised by passenger groups and opposition politicians.


Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said fares were lower in other European countries because they were subsidised by taxpayers.

He told the Today programme: "There's really two sources of funds for public transport here and across Europe. There's the taxpayer and the fare-payer and as I understand it, your reports focuses on the fare-payer.

"It doesn't recognise, as the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] recognises, that the UK is a relatively lightly-taxed economy and if we want to see the kind of investment that's needed in our public infrastructure, then we're going to have to pay for it.

"We're going to have to pay for it as taxpayers or as fare-payers and there's a balance to be struck there, but historically that balance has been different in the United Kingdom from elsewhere in Europe."

He added that commuting times were longer because people were living further away from their work places.

Train Company Average rise % (unregulated fares) Average rise % (regulated fares)
Arriva Trains Wales 5.5 4.3
c2c 4.3 4.3
Central Trains 5.7 4.3
Chiltern Railways 4.5 4.3
First Capital Connect 3.5 4.3
First Great Western 4.8 4.3
First ScotRail 4.3 4.3
(Strathclyde) - 0
First TransPennine Express 4.6 4.3
Gatwick Express 7.3 4.3
Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) 5.5 4.3
Heathrow Express 7.3 N/A
Hull Trains 3.5 N/A
Island Line N/A 5.3
Merseyrail 3.2 3.2
Midland Mainline 5.9 4.3
Northern Rail 4.3 4.3
(WYPTE area) - 6.3
'one' 5 4.3
Silverlink 4.3 4.3
Southeastern 4.3 6.3
Southern 4.3 4.3
South West Trains 5.3 4.3
Virgin CrossCountry 4.3 4.3
Virgin West Coast 6.6 4.3
Source: Atoc

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