The first week of January is not usually a happy occasion. The return to work after the festive joy of the Christmas period; the dark mornings and evenings, and the endless rain don’t make for happy commuters at the best of times. But this January is a little more dreary than usual, as those travelling by train face price hikes averaging 4.2%.
The TUC has protested that the average train fare has risen nearly three times faster than the average income over the past few years, as many have faced pay freezes in light of the poor economic situation in Britain. However, this is the 10th year running that ticket prices have increased at a rate above inflation, making your average rail commuter much worse off than they were a decade ago. Leeds-Wakefield saw the biggest rise in prices, with a yearly season ticket now costing 6.16% more than it did in December 2012.
On the other hand, the 3p fuel duty rise that was scheduled to take place in January 2013 was scrapped by George Osborne due to potential political backlash. Fuel duty and VAT make up around two-thirds of fuel prices, which are already thought by most motorists to be too high. Since 1991, the UK’s consumption of fuel has fallen by 20%, but the return on fuel duty has doubled. It was therefore a relief to many when the proposed fuel duty increase was axed after being postponed earlier in 2012.
With the consistent rise in train fares, it is now significantly cheaper for many to commute to work by car rather than by rail. The average price of commuting by rail is now £2,191 per year, making up around 8% of the median UK salary. The average fuel cost of driving to work, however, is significantly less at £1,441 per year. The cost is only part of the advantage of driving, but as the purse strings tighten after Christmas, it’s definitely going to be an important factor for those travelling in to offices and workplaces across the country.