The train ticket that cost 3 times as much as flying.

Travelling by train on some of the most popular long-distance routes in the UK can cost three times as much as flying.

The extraordinary prices charged by train operators have been laid bare in an audit by the Daily Mail. 

It found that an ‘anytime’ – or open – return from London to Edinburgh with LNER leaving in the early morning and coming back within a month costs £319 (R5 500).

However, a standard economy class return plane ticket from London Stansted to Edinburgh – also booked at short notice but coming back a few days later – costs just £97 (R1 700) with Ryanair and easyJet.

An open return rail ticket from London to Manchester with Virgin Trains costs £338 (R5 900), while a return flight with Flybe costs £161 (R2 800). And passengers can buy a return flight with Flybe from Birmingham to Edinburgh for £172 (R3 000), while an open return train ticket with CrossCountry will cost £235 (R4 000).

In fact, in five out of six cases checked the train was significantly more expensive.

All prices were quoted on ticket websites Trainline and Skyscanner. All train fare quotes were for ‘anytime’ returns. They were obtained for a passenger travelling the next morning.

The flight quotes were also obtained  were for a passenger travelling the next day and returning yesterday. 

David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘Fewer than half of rail passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets. It’s clear that passengers want a simpler, more understandable and modern fares system.’

Last week Sky News sports reporter Martha Kelner branded her £338 open return from London to Manchester with Virgin a ‘national disgrace’.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms, said: ‘Comparing fully flexible rail fares which can offer travel on scores of trains across a day with air fares restricted to one flight is totally misleading.’

A Virgin Trains spokesman said: ‘The vast majority of our customers take advantage of our discounted tickets, with fares between London and Manchester starting at £23  (R400), for example.’

© Daily Mail