Fare’s fair?

For many of us the first working day of the year has arrived and, like the inevitability of rain following a drought order, rail fares have increased.

As a rail commuter myself I am well aware of how depressing it is to see the cost of getting to somewhere (London in my case) go up year after year for no discernible benefit in terms of better, less crowded trains, nicer stations and shorter journey times.*

When I next renew my annual season ticket the cost to me will be £3,136 – an increase of just under 4.2%. On the face of it this seems a lot of money for what is approximately an 80 mile round trip to London five days a week.

But when you take a closer look it starts to become more reasonable. Thanks to that annual season ticket I get:

  • Unlimited travel between my home station and London 363** days a year
  • The ability to use any station between those two points without worrying if my ticket will cover it (handy for Lakeside, should I wish)
  • One third off of any other rail travel (except Transport for London – but I have my PAYG Oyster for that)

Not convinced? Then let us, as the colonials are want to say, ‘do the math’…

The daily cost to me of this ticket is £8.64. Narrow it down to 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year and the daily rate is £12.06. Take out my holiday allowance and the remaining bank holidays and you are up to £13.40 a day.

Now take a common small car, a Fiesta say. Apparently it does about 50 miles to the gallon of petrol so let us run with that figure even though I suspect it would do a lot less if sat in rush hour traffic for several hours a day.

At 80 miles a day, or 400 miles a week, that is 8 gallons (36.39 litres) of petrol a week. Assuming an unleaded car with petrol at 131.9p/litre (the lowest figure for my area according to PetrolPrices.com) I will be spending pretty much £48/week on petrol. Still, it’s less than 5 days on the train.

But wait, I haven’t thought about parking and (if I’m unlucky) the congestion charge. Like most London office blocks we don’t have acres of parking space but unlike most we do have a private side street which I could use if I arrived early enough. It would still however cost me £8/day as it is inside the congestion charge zone. If I didn’t fancy chancing it I could try the NCP on the edge of the zone at £18/day.

At a minimum I’m looking at £88/week or £4,576 a year. If I end up in the NCP every day it’s £7,176 and if I have to pay the congestion charge as well I’m up to £9,256 – almost 3 times my rail fare.

So whilst the taxpayer subsidised (boo, hiss), government regulated fare I have to pay on what we laughingly call our privatised rail network is hardly cheap, unless it triples in price I’ll stick to using it as the alternative is horrendously expensive.

I could, of course, always sell up, move closer to London and cycle in thus saving myself my transport costs – and I will admit to considering the idea – but this is offset by a more expensive property, a higher council tax bill and the depressing thought of having a socialist (of the Labour variety) MP and council.

In end it is, like everything, a choice so whilst I might (and indeed do) grumble about the cost I know that the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t necessarily greener.

* To be fair to the operating company serving the line I use, the trains are relatively modern (only a decade old) and I don’t tend to worry too much about stations as I (usually) spend less than five minutes on them each day. The journey times though, especially to London in the morning, have increased.

** No service Christmas Day or Boxing Day.


  1. SadButMadLad says:

    Don’t forget maintenance on the car too. And tax. And MOTs.

    If you only need a car at weekends to go to the supermarket, it’s usually cheaper to get a taxi. Or rent a car if you’re going longer distances to see family/friends/holiday.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      Which is why I sold mine 6 years ago, deeming it an unnecessary expense.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Work at home revolution please.

  3. Furor Teutonicus says:

    WE get the whole of Brandenburg plus Berlin (29.477 KM² ) for 1.084 per year, €186 per month, or €62 per week. 24/7/665,25.

    Trains (in Berlin) every 5 to 10 minutes, from 22:00 until 04:00 every 15 to 30 minutes.

  4. JuliaM says:

    You’re bucking the trend there! Don’t you know criticising the rail fare rises in January is as English a tradition as taking down your Christ as decorations on Twelfth Night? ;)

  5. Rahul says:

    Has anyone done a cost analysis of why rail fares are so high? With cars I see the hand of taxation (fuel duty, congestion charge). I can also make arguments for that taxation based on eliminating externalities. But rail? How much is due to inefficiencies in the operating companies or the cost (winner’s curse?) of the operating licenses? Then of course we also have government mandated fares. Why not have more heterogeneity in the fair structure?

  6. Dave says:

    I have a bus PASS Ha ha

    SEE more fun at http://www.muirmatters.co.uk/war.html

    Yer chum, Dave

  7. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Of course, in your car you aren’t sat next to a random psychotic nutcase who hates you for no reason.

    Unless you are in a car with Mrs SAoT of course.

  8. jameshigham says:

    When I next renew my annual season ticket the cost to me will be £3,136 – an increase of just under 4.2%. On the face of it this seems a lot of money for what is approximately an 80 mile round trip to London five days a week.

    An astounding amount of money.

  9. The Cowboy Online says:

    So very British of you, defending the cost of living in ‘rip off Britain’ by saying ‘it could be worse’. It is the British disease.