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Rail Fares Are 'Not That Expensive' Says Lib-Dem Minister Norman Baker Amid New Year Price Hike

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Rail fares in the UK are "not as expensive as is being presented" a minister has said, despite a survey suggesting some UK commuters will be forced to spend a third of their pre-tax salary on transport as fares go up again.

The Lib-Dem rail minister, Norman Baker, told the BBC although the rail system was "not ideal", once off-peak and early bird fares were taken into account the overall picture was cheaper than it would appear.

His comments came as a survey by Hay Group PayNet UK Salary Tracker revealed Wednesday's average train fare rise of 4.2% will put the average annual season ticket at £2,191, or 8% of the median UK salary of £26,082.

rail minister

Baker's comments are unlikely to be popular in the wake of New Year price hikes

For some commuters the squeeze on real pay will be significant, particularly for those with long journeys.

Workers in Birmingham could, in the worst cases, expect to spend up to one quarter (23%) of their annual salary on rail costs.

Some workers face an average season ticket price costing 13% of their annual salary in 2013 – rising to 18% in London.

As this figure does not include the London Underground or bus travel, many commuters in the capital will have to stretch even further to cover the cost of their journey.

The average for professional level workers across Britain is lower, with employees paying out 7% of a median salary (£29,723) on train travel.

However, those at this job level often choose to commute further, to avoid high living and housing costs. This means a season ticket cost of up to 12% of salary for commutes over 50 minutes.

These are the highest prices in Europe. A study by thisismoney.co.uk found a 24 mile commute to Paris costs £924.66 a year whilst a similar journey to London is £3,268.

Berliners can expect to pay £705.85 for a 21 mile annual commute and those travelling to Madrid only £653.74.

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Baker said: "We are engaged in the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th Century and it is only right that the passenger, as well as the taxpayer, contributes towards that.

"In the longer term we are determined to reduce the cost of running the railways so that we can end the era of above-inflation fare rises."

In other UK cities, including Manchester, Bristol and Leeds, average season ticket fares make up 12-14 per cent of annual salary workers.

Meanwhile, Cardiff commuters fare better, with operatives spending a more manageable 8% of salary on rail travel on average.

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