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It's not like we even have to tell you - trains are expensive.  UK commuters and travellers are plagued by a need to rely on the rail system, yet are forced to buy often-extortionate tickets and suffer delays, cancellations and just plain poor service all too often.

As of the 2nd January 2018, train prices will go up an average of 3.4% - the biggest price jump since 2013, above even the CPI rate of 3% - and will include all kinds of tickets (including season tickets and off-peak leisure tickets and just about everything in between).

Back on 2nd January 2017, train prices were also up - by an average of 2.3%. That was more than double the rate of inflation, and the biggest price hike of its kind for trains in around 3 years (until 2018, of course).

But just how expensive are British rail prices compared to the rest of Europe? Are we making a fuss about nothing, or are we really being charged too much to get across our relatively tiny country hassle-free?


European Train Prices - The Data

Comparing train prices internationally is difficult - prices can vary within a country, distances and destinations are unique, and pricing structures can also be inconsistent.

That's why we decided to base our data on each EU country's capital city train station, and the train station closest to 50 miles away. This gave us an even playing field, and as close to a consistent price metric to compare as possible.

We also selected the price for a single on the day of travel, and the price per mile for each journey to negate any inconsistent distances. Of course, these stations were ~50 miles apart, which doesn't account for the distance the train actually travels on the line - we picked train routes that were as straight as possible wherever possible (with no transfers where possible), and collected the time for each journey to try and show consistency.

Train Prices Across Europe - Map


Train Prices Across Europe - The Results

The only country with more expensive trains than the UK is Norway, who are charging a whopping 58p per mile for domestic train journeys. The UK is second, sitting a still disrespectfully strong 54p per mile.

... these two countries are a world ahead, however.

The UK charges twice as much as the next closest country, as Austria and Sweden have prices set at 27p per mile.

Compare this to Eastern Europe - a whopping 16 countries in Europe have prices set below 10p per mile, including Poland, Slovenia and Serbia. Remarkably, prices in Belarus and Ukraine sit at a ridiculous 1p per mile.

In fact, the average across the whole of Europe sits at a lowly 14p per mile, less than one third of the UK figure - despite it being equivalent in size to many countries included in the analysis.

UK train tickets also, remarkably, increased in price at a rate above any other country year on year, with this route jumping 6.43%. Only a handful of other countries increased in price, and just two of the ten priciest countries across Europe increased their prices further this year - the UK and Sweden (+1.69%.

If you've got a trip coming up anywhere in Europe - including the UK - don't forget to see if there are any discount codes you can use and to book your train travel as early as possible. There's a saving to be had with the likes of Trainline.com, Eurotunnel, Eurostar and My Interrail.


Train Prices Across Europe - The Exclusions

As you can see from the map, a number of countries were excluded or had no available data. For many, there simply wasn't a domestic passenger rail service functional at all. Some countries had a passenger rail service, but it wasn't large enough (single city systems were the most common) to be included in our study.

Others, including Moldova, had domestic trains that were seemingly not available for booking, despite international trains (like across to Romania) being available to purchase.

12 countries total were excluded, including Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Monaco and San Marino.


European Train Prices - The Full Data Set

The full data set is included below, for both single journeys and return journeys.

Ironically, despite return prices being almost exactly the same price as a single, the UK is still the second most expensive when it comes to price per mile across Europe. Our ridiculously frustrating system, which charges ~95% of the price of a return for a single, still means it falls into 2nd place on the returns table at 27p per mile.

Norway leads the charge here, staying strong at 58p per mile, while Austria (27p), Switzerland (26p), Holland (25p) and Ireland (23p)all follow closely behind. The majority of these employ the much more common system of simply charging a return-rider for two singles.

If anything, this further sheds light on the nonsensical nature of the UK system, opening it up to even more criticism than it deserves by forcing those buying a single to shell out far more than they should.


In response to the research, Chris Johnson, Head of Operations at Vouchercloud, commented:

“An average price increase of 3.4% across the rail network is not a huge amount in and of itself. However, when we actually have numbers that show our train prices are already the most expensive across the whole of Europe on a consistent basis, it tells a whole different story.

“The very least we can expect is an improvement in service and reduction in delays and cancellations – and if that doesn’t happen again this year, then we’re justifiable in our complaints that a once proud, still hugely important transport network here in the UK is holding commuters hostage”

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