Rail travellers in Britain pay highest fares in Europe

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The Independent Online

Rail users in Britain are charged the highest fares in Europe, with some commuters having to pay four times more for a comparable ticket, a report reveals today. The Government-backed study is the first to make a meaningful comparison between the cost of British rail travel and that in seven other European countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Passenger Focus, the official industry watchdog that carried out the research, has warned that high prices are a result of the attempt by the Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, to cut the public subsidy given to the rail industry. In the last round of fare rises last month, ticket prices went up by an average of 6 per cent for season and saver tickets and 7 per cent for advance-purchase fares. Some tickets increased by more than 10 per cent. Anthony Smith, the watchdog’s chief executive, said: “Passengers cannot be expected to continue paying above-inflation fare increases during a recession.”

British passengers with unrestricted return tickets to London faced the highest fares in all eight countries, with those taking journeys of between 17 and 40km facing ticket prices that are 59 per cent higher than those in the second most expensive country, Switzerland. Passengers wanting to make long-distance trips on the same day they buy their ticket have to pay 87 per cent more than in Germany.

The Department for Transport said it would cost an extra £500m a year to bring UK commuter fares in line with prices paid in other European countries, which it said were more heavily subsidised.