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.

In fact, as of the 2nd January 2017, train prices are up again - by an average of 2.3%. This is more than double the rate of inflation, and the biggest price hike of its kind for trains in around 3 years.

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 - MapTrain Prices Across Europe - Chart


Train Prices Across Europe - The Results

So, as expected, the UK - despite its relatively small size - officially sits at the top of the list when it comes to train prices in Europe, with a whopping 50p price per mile sitting free and clear.

Often-expensive Austria is second with 33p per mile, while France, Holland and Ireland follow closely behind with prices above 30p per mile.

Compare this to Eastern Europe - Poland and Lithuania both cost below 10p per mile (less than 20% of the equivalent price in the UK), while 15 of the 25 countries featured offer prices below 20p per mile.

In fact, the average across the whole of the EU sits at a lowly 19p per mile, less than half of the UK figure - despite it being equivalent in size to many countries included in the analysis.

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

Note we also excluded Bulgaria Finland, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Malta, due to the size, complete lack of, or distances between stations in their rail systems (some also only had 50 mile journeys with transfers, so were typically excluded unless minor).

For example, Finland's rail system has few stations and, outside of some southernly clustering, extends wide over the country, which would have skewed the data and makes for an iffy representation. You can also travel ~52 miles, but only with lengthy changes (Helsinki > Turenki, for example). However, a £16.50 price tag for a 60-mile journey would still leave it far down our list.


European Train Prices - The Full Data Set

The full data set is included below, for both single journeys and return journeys - currency conversions were via Compare Currency.

Slightly more encouragingly, the UK isn't quite so expensive when you include return journeys; our ridiculously frustrating system, which charges ~95% of the price of a return for a single, means that it actually falls into 6th place on the returns table at just 25p per mile.

Austria leads the charge here, remaining at 33p per mile, while France, Holland, Ireland Belgium and Switzerland 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 2.3% across the rail network for 2017 is not a lot 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, 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 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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