Leading Article: No happy returns on the gravy train

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The Independent Online
Good news. The Channel Tunnel is open again. There is only one drawback: you can go, but you cannot come back. The outward-bound trains are invitingly empty but the trains coming back are either fully booked or unbookable. Travellers trying to buy return tickets at Waterloo were told they could buy only one-way tickets. Not surprisingly, 85 per cent of the seats on the outward trains remain unsold. There are just not that many would-be emigrants around.

So this being yuletide and the season of goodwill, we have a modest proposal for all those readers of Rupert Murdoch's Times and Sunday Times. You can always tell those cheapskates who masquerade as "Top People" but can be seduced by the mere saving of a few pence. They have an apologetic, shifty air, ashamed to have taken Murdoch's shilling. You can see them hiding their embarrassed faces behind his cut-price papers on the tube, or whispering guiltily to one another as they root about in litter bins for tokens to tear out of dumped copies.

Media analysts reckon Murdoch has spent some pounds 80m this year promoting the forlorn loss-making Times with price cuts and Eurostar tokens. His cross-subsidy of the Times from his television operations would be illegal in America, where uncompetitive predatory pricing is outlawed. Driving out your competitors with an artificially subsidised price is illegal there. But although we have a government that extols competition, for fear of the wrath of his many front pages, they have always exempted Murdoch.

So, we suggest to all those token-collectors - now is the time to take a break. Cash in your ill-gotten Eurostar tokens today. Get on that one- way train.