Text Size

Current Size: 100%

Header utility menu

Work doesn’t pay for parents as childcare and rail fares swallow up 35% of families’ wages

28 October 2011
Commuting families are now spending more than a third of their wages on childcare and rail fares, according to figures from Campaign for Better Transport.

The figures show that for a family with two working parents and two children in nursery, rail fares and childcare costs will swallow up on average 35 per cent of their joint take home pay. Families outside the South East fare slightly better spending around 26 per cent of their wages, with families in London and the South East spending the most, at around 40 per cent.
The sustainable transport charity is warning that the combined cost of commuting by rail and childcare is placing an increasingly unbearable burden on families.
Alexandra Woodsworth, Campaign for Better Transport’s public transport campaigner, said: “We now have both the highest rail fares in Europe and the highest childcare costs. With fares set to rise 28 per cent over the next four years, these combined costs will become increasingly unbearable. For many families it means that work simply doesn't pay - it doesn't make financial sense to stay in work or return after maternity leave. We’re calling on the Government to stop penalising working families and review the above inflation increases as matter of urgency.”

The latest figures come only a month after research revealed childcare costs are on a par with mortgage or rent payments for 41 per cent of families, with a quarter of parents, regardless of incomes, admitting to having got into debt to pay for childcare. The research also discovered that a quarter of parents in severe poverty had given up work and a third had turned down a job mainly because of high childcare costs.
Elizabeth Duff is the senior policy adviser for NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents. She said: “For many parents with young children the dilemma of affording necessities, while transport and childcare costs continue to rise, becomes a challenging juggling act. At a time when many households are on a reduced budget we are worried about the impact these rising costs will have on families. NCT provides opportunities for parents to support each other in their communities through a local branch network. These could include car pools, sharing childcare arrangements or just providing a listening ear.”
Campaign for Better Transport launched a national Fair Fares Now campaign earlier in the year. It calls on the Government to reverse its decision to raise fares 3 per cent above inflation for the next three years and instead provide more affordable, straightforward tickets that provide good value for money and encourage people to choose the train.

Notes to Editors

Combined costs of two annual season tickets and nursery care for two children under two:


  Rail commute  Childcare  Total  As % of take-home pay
National  £4,128  £10,056  £14,184  35%
London & South East  £3,632  £12,328  £15,960  40%
Manchester  £2,004  £8,600  £10,604  26%

1. The average cost of a season ticket in the UK is £2,064 (Source: letter from ATOC, Metro, 5 Oct 2011)
2. The average cost of a season ticket in specific areas is not made publicly available by ATOC. We estimated an average based on the latest available official ORR data for the stations with the highest number of season ticket entries/exits. Terminus stations (eg. London Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly) were excluded, as were stations which have a high level of interchanges (greater than 500,000), which indicates that people are changing at rather than originating from the station (eg. Clapham Junction). Stations with a higher level of interchange than season ticket entries/exits were also excluded. For Manchester, we estimated an average based on the top 50 stations in the North West region, excluding Merseyside stations and two other stations that are unlikely to produce commutes to Manchester (Sellafield and Ormskirk). For London and the South East, we estimated an average based on the combined top 100 stations in the London, South East and East regions.
3. Season ticket costs available from National Rail Enquiries. Season tickets costs are a current 12-month season ticket from the originating station to London Terminals or Manchester Terminals. Where multiple options are available, the option for ‘any route shown by the Journey Planner’ was selected, except for Inner London stations, where a Travelcard up to and including the originating station zone was included.
4. Season ticket station entries and exits data available from ORR.


5. Childcare costs refer to the average annual cost of 25 hours a week of nursery care for a child under two; data available from the Daycare Trust. Research on the effects of childcare costs on families, also from the Daycare Trust.

6. Average take home pay from Centre for Economics and Business Studies for BBC Panorama. Based on actual salaries paid into bank accounts, based on data on salaries from the payment processor, Vocalink, which looks after more than 90% of deposits into employees' bank accounts.

7. Campaign for Better Transport launched the Fair Fares Now campaign in January to call for cheaper, simpler, fairer rail ticketing. Visit the website for more information www.fairfaresnow.org.uk

8. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).