Commuters told to avoid buying lunch at train stations due to high prices

A watchdog has discovered that commuters pay roughly 10% more for food and drink in train stations than on the high street.

The Office of Road and Rail (ORR) discovered that food businesses in stations were charging up to 34% more for goods when compared to the same outlet elsewhere.

The conclusions are based on a report by the regulator into station catering, which discovered that a lack of competition in the sector resulted in bad value for customers.

The ORR examined the cost of the lowest price of bottled water and cola sold both inside and outside stations as part of the research and discovered that in many cases, the premium was over 10%.

It was also discovered that 11 of the 13 stores charged more for goods within stations, with premiums ranging from 1% to 34%.

Railway station pricing was then compared to those at highway service stations and airports, and it was discovered that service station rates were comparable to airport prices. In some situations, airport prices were up to 12% more than those charged at train stations.

In the United Kingdom, there are 2,367 railway stations, with approximately 470 offering some type of cuisine. Almost half of these had only one food outlet.

The regulator said that this was due in part to the fact that station operators were not incentivised to allow competition, and retail leases seldom changed hands, resulting in lower income that could be utilised to invest in stations and services.

Will Godfrey, the ORR’s director of economics, finance and markets, said: “The railway station catering market isn’t working as effectively as it should be. More competition between companies to operate at stations would bring real benefits to passengers and taxpayers.

“Because money earned from leases at stations ultimately makes its way back to those who operate railway stations and infrastructure, this is money that could be invested in improving services for passengers or reducing the need for taxpayer support.”

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