British commuters on our privatised railways are paying up to six times more for their travel than many of their counterparts in Europe, who are using publicly-owned services.
According to a report this month by the Action for Rail group of the rail unions and the TUC commuters on the short 29-mile stretch from Chelmsford to London spend an estimated 13% of their salary for their monthly season ticket, against commuters on similar journeys on their publicly-owned railways paying 10% in France, 4% in Germany, 3% in Spain and 2% in Italy. Rail companies say the figures do not reflect the greater frequency of trains and the better rail safety record in the UK.
Meanwhile rail companies are saving millions in compensation for late or cancelled trains, because customers don’t know they are entitled to it, or do know but opt not to claim it.
The consumer group Which? has launched a “super-complaint” against the rail companies demanding that they better publicise the claims procedure and make it easier for rail customers to claim the compensation they are legally due for the annual total of nearly 50 million cancelled or late journeys. Which? reports that only one third of customers apply for the compensation they are owed.
Prior to the Which? report Virgin became the first rail company to offer automatic payments after delays, on selected journeys.