The Great Train Robbery

Thomas the Tank EngineI just read on the BBC News website that the first UK rail ticket to exceed £1000 is now on sale. It’s a non-booked, first-class return from Newquay in Cornwall to Kyle of Lochalsh in the Scottish Highlands. As it happens, neither the first nor the final legs of the journey have first-class compartments, but you pay anyway if you get the through ticket.

As a comparison, I’ve just priced a return trip by air, using a single operator. I’m sure you could find a cheaper route with some research. As it happens, there is an airport right at Newquay: the former RAF St. Mawgan, now Newquay Cornwall Airport. It’s just about 2.5 km from the town centre, so you could walk it if you’re young and fit, but anyway, a taxi would only cost a couple of quid.

Then, my route is to fly to Gatwick and catch another plane to Inverness. The total return fare comes out at about £350, although if you were totally flexible on times, you could reduce it a lot. Still, you arrive at Inverness with £650 still to spend. Just as well, because Kyle of Lochalsh is about another 100km or 60 miles away. You could take the train, which is exactly what they’d have had you do on the £1000 ticket. No first-class seats on the train, remember.

I haven’t bothered to check the cost of a ticket between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh. Anyway, probably the cheapest way to travel would be to rent a car for the day from Inverness airport. It’s what I’d do.

But the moral of the story is clear: there is something, very, very seriously wrong with British railways.

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