36 flights a day between Heathrow and Manchester! Madness! That was for me the most stocking part of an article in today’s Guardian about Tory Party transport plans. Factor in the other London airports and the total is much higher (Manchester Airport flight search here – type ‘LON’ as the code to get all London flights). The Tories instead want to get people onto trains. Fine idea.

So how’s this for a comparison: what happens in France between Lyon and Paris? Same sort of arrangement – large city in the regions to the capital. Manchester-London is 336km and Lyon-Paris is 466km. Yet there are only 8 daily flights between Lyon and Paris!

So what makes the difference?

Time – journey time is roughly 2 hours in each case, Lyon-Paris 15 minutes quicker on average

Price – at peak hours UK prices are higher, but off peak prices are largely equivalent

Connections – there are direct TGV trains from Lyon to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. No equivalent exists in the UK where only the Heathrow Express connects with Heathrow.

Psyche and reliability – SNCF is a national treasure, while British trains are a national disaster, and related to that the perceived lack of reliability of British trains

Capacity – could the West Coast Main Line transport all the people that wanted to make the journey even if they would take the train? 16 carriage, double-deck TGVs are common. Not so on the UK network!

On the face of it making the journey time quicker between Manchester and London is only part of the answer, although I would be very strongly in favour of a British TGV or ICE!


  1. James Royston

    You shouldn’t let the Tories off the hook so easily, Jon – opposition to an extra runway at Heathrow does not equate to opposing an extra runway for London. I suspect that if they got into Government, the Conservatives would push for a new runway at either Gatwick or Stansted.

    Second, I think it is worth pointing out that (albeit belatedly) the Labour Government in the UK has brought about Britain’s first high-speed rail link, on the Eurostar. Certainly there should be more investment in high-speed rail, but the Tory proposals are nothing new.

  2. @jon – What we do in USA is, we socialize industries, then remember we don’t believe in socialism so we neglect them into collapse. I think in UK the pattern is reversed, but it may be that neither approach quite solves the problem.

    But I do love the new London-Paris Eurostar TGV!

  3. @jrep – I was in the USA this year, taking Amtrak between New York and Montreal. If Britain is bad then the USA is for sure worse…

    @GreenMonk / Ludovic – thanks for the links!

  4. And lets not forget the emissions of planes are also disproportionate… (as far as I know)

  5. I had to go to Manchester from London for business recently. There were no direct trains after about 9 am.

    The privatisation of the railways remains one of the most ludicrous, ideologically-driven policies of the last tory government, and is an indictment of Labour who refused to reverse it.

  6. You think UK trains are a disaster? Come to America sometime! Wish I could put my hands on the number of flights between San Francisco and LA, or Boston and Washington.

  7. I couldn’t agree more and have blogged extensively on the question:


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