Should Richard Branson be such a revered figure of British industry? Well, if you consider being able to formulate a business plan that charges more for catching a train from Carlisle to London than flying from Manchester to New York a shrewd business model, yes, I suppose he should. If however, like me, you consider a £282 (standard) or an incredible £415 (first class) return rail fare for Carlisle to Euston a pure-and-simple rip-off, no! I’d rather see Virgin Trains and Richard Branson branded as the thieves they are.
To put this into perspective, here’s an example £348 flight from Manchester to New York…
OK, I know that’s hardly the same journey – comparing apples with pears and all that – so here’s a journey from Manchester to London, just £93 return! In other words, I could fly to London and come back again three times for the price of one standard fare on Virgin Trains!
And to think Virgin Trains have the audacity to attempt to portray themselves as “green” – a better option than driving. Huh! So how much does driving a car cost? Michelin’s site suggests £32.34 each way, maybe that doesn’t account for wear and tear on tyres etc. – so lets double it: the return journey then is just £129.
I wouldn’t mind quite so much if there was a choice – I can’t even vote against the Virgin Trains West Coast monopoly and take my business elsewhere, there is nowhere else. Herein is the problem, allow a private (for profit) company like Virgin to operate without competition and they charge what they like! Simply, there should either be public-sector (not for profit) public-transport services, or more than one competing private-sector operators, not a monopoly (especially on crucial lines like the West Coast mainline).
As a final thought, what about a Virgin Atlantic rip-off flight to New York? That’s just £1425… 😯 That kind of reinforces my point that it’s Richard Branson and Virgin that are ripping us off, i.e. it isn’t just a rail issue.
Hopefully this summary table helps to make my point without the angry words above:
|Fly||BMI||Manchester – Heathrow||£93||Cheapest|
|Car||–||Carlisle – Euston||£129|
|Train||Virgin Trains||Carlisle – Euston||£282||Most expensive|
|Train||Virgin Trains||Carlisle – Euston||£415||First class|
|Fly||Delta||Manchester – New York JFK||£348|
|Fly||Virgin Atlantic||Manchester – New York JFK||£1425|
Do I recommend using Richard Branson’s Virgin services? No. Perhaps they’d be better renaming their website virgin.con? Of course the choice is yours to use Virgin Trains … oh wait, no they have a monopoly operating trains to London on the West Coast mainline don’t they!