Commuters are being welcomed back to work after the festive period with an average rail fare rise of 3.4 per cent, which comes into effect today.
And to celebrate, the Trades Union Congress has published a study suggesting UK commuters spend up to five times as much of their salary on rail fares as other Europeans.
Protests are set for around 40 railway stations around the country by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which handed out chocolates to passengers to try and sweeten "the bitter pill of the fare rises".
Fare increases to regulated fares come from the previous July's retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation.
The TUC said fares were set to rise a third faster than wages this year, and added that British commuters will spend far more of their salaries on season tickets than other Europeans.
As an example, it said someone on an average salary travelling from Chelmsford to London will spend 13 per cent of their pay for season tickets, while comparable commutes would result in spending two per cent of the average salary in France, three per cent in Italy and four per cent in Germany.
How UK commuters' spend on season tickets compares with comparable routes across Europe:
|Country||From||To||Monthly season ticket cost||Percentage of average earnings|
|UK||Chelmsford||London||£381||13 per cent|
|France||Etampes||Paris||£66||Two per cent|
|Italy||Civita Castellana||Rome||£65||Three per cent|
|Germany||Eberswalde||Berlin||£118||Four per cent|
|Belgium||Gent||Brussels||£144||Five per cent|
|Spain||Arenys de Mar||Barcelona||£108||Five per cent|
“Employers can help out by offering zero-interest season ticket loans, or offering more flexible work hours and locations," said the TUC's general secretary Frances O'Grady.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said of the incoming fare changes:
On average, fares will rise by less than inflation this year. For every pound paid in fares, 97p goes directly back to operating and improving services and, with more people travelling, that means more money for investment by the private and public partnership railway to build the better network Britain needs.