THE relationship between inflation and wages is a complex one, and few of us probably think too deeply about its impact on our everyday lives. One group knows more than most, however: rail commuters.

Indeed, this long-suffering bunch are unlikely to be shocked by the recent figures showing that over the past decade rail fares increased twice as fast as wages. Those who rely on the train to get them to and from work have been taking the hit for years, with many struggling to make the commute pay.

Research by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) found that fares have gone up by an eye-watering 32 per cent over the last nine years, while average weekly earnings have increased by only 16 per cent.

The RMT claims commuters are being ripped off by fares that are often far higher than those paid by our European neighbours. And it’s hard to disagree with such a conclusion when one examines some of the local evidence (as anyone who commutes between Scotland’s two biggest cities will know).

Season tickets for peak travel between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street cost £379 a month, which corresponds to a fifth of the average monthly Scottish wage of £1929. Commuters between Edinburgh and Glenrothes, meanwhile, face a monthly bill of £256 for the 31 mile journey. A comparable journey in France, between Paris and Etampes, costs just £66 - the average French monthly wage is £2704. Fares in Germany, which has an enviably efficient rail Network, are also significantly lower.

And matters are about to get even worse for UK commuters, with news that passengers are likely to be hit by yet another inflation-busting increase next year, expected to be in the region of 3.5 per cent.

With many workers still feeling the pinch from almost a decade of stagnant wages, any such rise will only add to the financial stresses. Pay growth recently fell to its lowest level in six months, despite the highest levels of employment since 1976.

Higher inflation can sometimes signal consumer confidence, of course, but flatlining wages across multiple sectors of the economy mean there’s still no feelgood factor for many, especially with petrol and house prices continuing to rise, and uncertainty around Brexit only increasing.

Politicians in both London and Edinburgh constantly talk about down the line improvements to the rail network. The problem is that the slow pace of change and poor performance of train companies has led to a near complete loss of patience and confidence among passengers. Higher fares again will only add insult to injury. Ripped off indeed.