Sky-High Train Ticket Prices Derail Government's Rail Sale Promises

Andy Burnham points out the staggering price of a two-hour train from Manchester to London.
The cost of peak train journeys out of Manchester is sky-high
The cost of peak train journeys out of Manchester is sky-high
Alex Livesey - Danehouse via Getty Images

Train tickets from Manchester down to London are now more expensive than travelling to faraway destinations like Jamaica, even though the government has just announced its launching a rail ticket sale.

The mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham pointed out the astronomical prices on Twitter, sharing a screenshot of £369.40 return ticket from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston for Monday morning.

Burnham, a prominent Labour figure, has regularly drawn attention to the discrepancies between prices in London and those for travel in the north of England.

This time, he went even further and compared this train ticket price with the cost of travelling (presumably by plane) from Manchester to places like India, Jamaica, Brazil and the Ivory Coast.

He found it’s cheaper to travel to any of these destinations than it is to get a return peak train ticket from Manchester to London, even though this is just a two-hour journey.

When travelling this same distance between Paris and Lyon in France it costs just £58 for a single ticket, according to the Labour politician.

Burnham’s observation went viral, with more than 40,000 likes within three hours of posting it on Twitter.

He has been calling for a permanent reduction in rail fares for some time, and says the Department of Transport’s Great British Rail Sale – as enthusiastically promoted by transport secretary Grant Shapps – shows what prices should be like all the time.

This sale runs from April 25 until May 27, and means more than a million tickets will be sold at half price – but excludes commuters travelling at peak times.

Writing for the Evening Standard, Burnham explained that the sale is “an admission from the government that rail fares in this country are way too high”.

Burnham said the transport secretary is showing people in their thirties and younger “what things were like before rail privatisation” before letting prices shoot up again for May.

He also pointed out that with discrepancies like this, the UK is not in the right place to cut down on car use as it tries to reduce CO2 emissions in the face of the climate crisis.

Once the sale was announced, its critics quickly started the new hashtag #greatbritishrailfail, claiming it did not go far enough as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

The sale was announced just a month after the largest hike in ticket prices for almost a decade. Fares in England and Wales rose by almost 3.8% to gain back some of the losses from the pandemic.

The government is already in hot water over its Levelling Up promises linked to the railway system, after plans for new railway lines in the north were downgraded last year and the eastern leg of HS2 running from Birmingham to Leeds was cut.


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