British rail passengers have been left baffled by a “cringey” video from transport secretary Grant Shapps, posted this morning to promote the government’s Great British Rail Sale initiative.
In the video, Mr Shapps poses with a plastic crab in front of a green screen, and slings on a backpack with its retail tag still visible – all while wearing a rumpled greige T-shirt.
“I want to tell you about a great offer coming to you. It’s the great British rail sale offering over one million rail tickets at up to half price for trips,” he says, before addressing the nation from a station platform about the rail travel slump of the past two years.
Rather than promoting the areas of the UK that could use an infusion of post-pandemic tourism, Mr Shapps also suggests several very well-trodden UK domestic travel spots, including Edinburgh, the Lake District and Cornwall.
In promotional tweets and a media release, the Department for Transport (DfT) related the launch of the train tickets sale – which runs from April into May – to the current cost of living crisis.
The reception on social media was baffled at best, with many teasing the transport secretary for the concept and delivery of the video.
“To help with the cost of living, we have told Grant Shapps to do this cheesy promo video, rather than relying on the services of a former soap actor,” joked one Twitter user.
“Seems three people isn’t enough for Shapps, he’s now adding Desperate Dan/Mr Benn (delete as appropriate) to his resumé,” wrote Cameron Asquith.
“Excellent stuff here from the ‘never do it like this’ video training school,” commented writer Kit de Waal.
“Why does [Shapps] slip so easily into the role of dodgy pyramid scheme salesman?” commented user @AdmiralBooth.
Meanwhile, several travel fans raised the issue of persistently high full-priced UK rail fares, which, they argued, render the sale’s half-price deals underwhelming.
“Why don’t you reduce fares drastically each and every day to get people out of cars? Instead of filming stupid adverts,” wrote David Rose.
“@Grantshapps Rail travel is so much more unaffordable and unreliable in our country compared to eg neighbors in Europe.”
“Why do I need to plan in advance and commit to a specific train to get a ticket that’s still more expensive than anything in Europe?” asked frustrated rail passenger Chris Baker.
“How about affordable rail prices every year? The mainland Europe rail network is cheap, reliable, has an extensive route through all countries,” added Helen Davies. “We traveled a while back from Milan to Nice by rail for the equivalent of £9, no pre-booking, just the on-the-day price.”
As part of the sale, a £44 advance fare from London to Edinburgh on LNER should be reduced to £22. Railcard discounts still apply, potentially reducing the cost of this journey to £14.50. From Cardiff to London, a £47 one-way advance ticket with GWR should be cut to £25 – or £16.50 with a railcard.
The Rail Delivery Group – representing train operators and Network Rail – is coordinating the Great British Rail Sale campaign.
The chief executive, Jacqueline Starr, said: “We want everyone to be able to benefit from traveling by train because it’s more than just a journey, it’s a way to connect everyone to the people, places and things they love.”
The government and rail industry hope the offer will spur the traveling public to get back on the rails in greater numbers.