Which? response and consumer insight on train fare increases

With a new year signalling further price rises on train fares for hard-pressed consumers, the Which? Spending Power Index shows that the rising cost of public transport is among the big factors that have affected how much consumers have had to spend throughout the economic downturn. People are often unable to reduce their spending on rail transport so the increase will be unwelcome news for millions of consumers struggling with the cost of living.

Which? consumer insight shows:

  • Just three in ten (30%) consumers trust the rail industry to act in their best interests – less than those who trust the banking industry (33%).
  • Only 30% of people are planning to spend less on transport in the next few months (compared to 56% on clothing and 40% on groceries and food) – which could be due to the inability to switch to another form of transport.
  • Six in ten (59%) say they feel able to complain which is one of the worst scores across all industries we looked at, with only trade services (53%) and long-term financial products (51%) scoring less.

Our new analysis reveals:

  • The average household spends 14% of their income on transport.
  • On average, households spend £530 a year on public transport with 30-49 year olds spending the most – £744 on average.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“The Government’s action to limit rail fare price rises, announced in the Autumn Statement, will help commuters but any increase is a blow to people already feeling the financial squeeze.

“The Government must ensure it is doing everything to put consumers first and help keep the unavoidable costs of living in check.”


1.   Quarterly Consumer Report: Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2108 UK adults online between 13th and 15th September 2013.  Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.  Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

2.   Consumer Insight Tracker: Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2126 UK adults online between 22nd and 24th November 2013. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

3.   Previous Which? research also shows over half of the train companies had a customer satisfaction score of 50% or lower, and overall only 22% of train users felt the service they received was improving despite rising ticket prices. The research also revealed that one in 10 journeys result in passengers having a cause for complaint, but 82% don’t bother to complain. [We asked 7,519 UK adults online in November 2012 about their train journeys in the last 12 months. Survey respondents had, on average, travelled 37 times by rail in the previous year.]

4.   Data on transport spend is cited from the ONS Family Spending Report, 2011.

5. The Which? Spending Power Index measures the money coming into households that they have to spend – all income sources (including wages, investment income, benefits, etc.) minus taxes – and adjusts this for the effect of inflation on what that money can buy to track how spending power from income changes over time.

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