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Rail fare rise outstrips wage growth

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As further increases to commuting costs are announced, experts call on employers to help ease the financial burden on workers

UK commuters are to be hit by a further train ticket price rise, costing many commuters over £100 more a year to get to work, it has been announced.

The increase, due to come into effect next year, is based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) July inflation rate of 2.8%.

But analysis by the TUC ahead of the announcement showed that rail fares have risen at almost twice the rate of wages since 2009. It found that while fares have risen by 46% over the past 10 years, nominal weekly earnings have grown by just 23%.

This follows TUC analysis published in January which outlined that UK commuters spend up to five times more of their salary on rail fares than other European passengers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that fare hikes are the "last thing" employees need. “We’re already paying the highest ticket prices in Europe to travel on overcrowded and understaffed trains," she said.

News of the increase follows research from Hastee Pay last month which found that commuting to work has a significant impact on employees' pay packets and overall wellbeing. This was especially the case in London where 60% of employees admitted they had on some occasions not travelled to work due to money problems, compared to a national average of 39%.

Geraint Johnes, professor of economics at Lancaster University Management School, told HR magazine that employers need to be more aware of the rising cost of living faced by employees.

"The main issue is that real wages have fallen since the economic crash in 2008. This means that the cost of living will have increased all round. It's a problem that extends beyond just rail travel," he said.

"There are certain groups who could see that the high costs of travel impacts their overall income. This is especially true of part-time workers, which may include those with caring responsibilities. One of the areas where employers can assist with this is to join the increasing numbers of organisations who have flexible working options, including the opportunity to work from home."

Ann Marie Bell, director of employee benefits platform GettaSub, recommended employers look into offering short-term loans and financial advice to help ease the pressure on workers.

“Many commuters will be shocked to hear of yet another forthcoming rail fare hike, as the price of a train ticket is becoming less and less affordable for many full-time workers," she said.

"Moving forward, employers must understand that they have a duty of care beyond the traditional pay cycle and offer alternative short-term and long-term solutions to the financial difficulties brought about by expensive travel costs. These solutions should include the option for FCA-regulated payday loan schemes or advanced financial advice and support.”