Herald the entry of a new statistical misadventure from our government, never shy of fiddling the books.

In the context of disparaging the current RMT union’s railway workers strike that’s taking place at the moment:

Mr Shapps went on to say: “The median salary for the rail sector is £44,000, which is significantly above the median salary in the country.”

We asked the Department for Transport (DfT) how it got to this figure and it initially said it had taken the median figures from the ONS for four categories of workers, added them up and divided by four

I barely know what to call that calculation. The mean average of medians? It most certainly is not the median.

Out of interest, the 4 categories, in order of actual median salary, were:

  • Rail travel assistants
  • Rail construction and maintenance operatives
  • Rail transport operatives
  • Train and tram drivers

To work out the median salary earned, you need to line up each individual’s salary in a row, low to high, and pick the middle one. Admittedly I haven’t looked it up, but I feel it’s pretty safe to say that there are more lesser-paid rail travel assistants than higher-paid train drivers out there.

To compound the crime against maths, the highest paid category of those four, train drivers, is apparently largely irrelevant to the current RMT strikes - because almost none of them are actually in the RMT union. They tend to be members of ASLEF.

Whilst the RMT union does apparently often include the lower-paid of the listed categories, it also includes staff such as 10,000 cleaners, who are routinely paid a lot less than any of the listed roles.