Mayor Andy Burnham has doubled down on his comments comparing rail faires between Manchester and London to flights to Brazil after his attack on exortionate train travel launched a big debate. Launching a three-pronged defense of his initial takedown of the Transport Secretary’s ‘Great British Rail Sale’, he asked everyone to agree that train fares are in fact ‘daylight robbery’.
It all began this week when the Mayor was scornful of the rail fare ‘bonanza’ advertised by Grant Shapps as a way to offset the cost of living crisis. Mr Burnham said in fact the promotions were an admission from the government that ‘rail fares in this country are way too high’.
Mr Burnham claimed that, based on today’s prices, it is ‘cheaper to book a return flight from Manchester to India, Jamaica, Brazil or the Ivory Cost than it is to take a two-hour return rail journey to our capital city’. “It is often cheaper to get a flight between Manchester and London if you need to travel at peak times,” he added. “For as long as train tickets cost more than plane tickets, the economics of transport in the UK will be in entirely the wrong place when it comes to facing up to the climate crisis. But the truth is it’s unlikely to change any time soon. ”
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Slamming the rail comes out as an ‘election gimmick’ that excludes daily commuters, Mr Burnham called for a complete public takeover of he railways, and a ‘massive reduction’ in fares. Mr Burnham’s was certainly not the sole voice of outcry following the launch of the sale. Fellow critics variously branded it a ‘meaningless soundbite’ and a ‘stunt.
It follows a rise in regulated rail fares, which are set by the Government, of 3.8 per cent last month, amid the continuation of reduced services in Greater Manchester as operators grapple with the congested Castlefield corridor. Meanwhile, the Manchester Evening News has also reported how reduced timetables are set to continue into 2023.
But many responding to the mayor on social media argued there are a wide range of rail fares available and that comparing a re-booked flight was not comparable to a turn-up and go rail ticket. .
So Mr Burnham returned to Twitter to address their comments. In a three-pronged defence, he made the counterpoints that some people can’t book in advance if it’s a last-minute trip, that a rail ticket to London should never cost more than a trip to Brazil, and that the flight prices he quoted are legitimate.
He said: “First – to all those who helpfully pointed out the wide range of advance fares: Thanks, but what if there’s no ability to book in advance? What if you have to drop everything first thing on Monday morning and head to Piccadilly?
“Second – to those who said a turn-up-and-go ticket is not comparable to a book-in-advance flight: You’re technically right. But I wasn’t making a technical point. I was making the broad point that a rail journey to London should never cost more than a trip to Brazil!
“Third – to those of you who said I made up the cost of the flights: This was taken from the Skyscanner website yesterday (original figures Wednesday). So, all that said, can we now agree that £369.40 for a two-hour rail journey and 400-mile round trip is daylight robbery? Cheers.”
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