Emma Lunn: If train fares are fair then air travel must be a bargain

 

Rail passengers learnt this week that they'll face average price hikes of 3.5 per cent next January. It's fair to say the news didn't go down well with both commuters and occasional long-distance travellers.

The transport minister Claire Perry claimed workers were paying "fair fares for a comfortable commute" and also that high prices elsewhere could be avoided by booking tickets in advance.

Undoubtedly millions of commuters squashed into overcrowded carriages would disagree with her first point, while I'll argue with the second.

I need to go to Manchester for a day for work next month, so I checked out the train fares from London.

The cheapest round trip, admittedly travelling at peak time but committing to a particular train, came in at £148.50 (£113 outbound, £35.50 on the way back). If I wanted to go crazy and have a choice of trains, and travel first class, the price rose to an eye-watering £459. Manchester is just two hours seven minutes and about 200 miles away from London.

For £148.50 I could fly to Milan and back with easyJet almost three times. And for the price of a first-class "anytime" train ticket from London to Manchester, I could embark on a 5,922-mile round trip to Bangkok.

Are train fares fair? I don't think so.

Twitter: @emmalunn

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