Free bacon rolls are being used to tempt back rail passengers - how about more affordable train tickets?

It’s going to take more than free bacon rolls to encourage more people to take the train - the industry could start by looking at the cost of tickets

<p>The Rail Delivery Group has announced a new incentives promotion - including free bacon rolls (Photos: Getty)</p>

The Rail Delivery Group has announced a new incentives promotion - including free bacon rolls (Photos: Getty)

Rail industry bosses are desperate for us all to start getting on trains again. With overall passenger numbers in the UK still only at 53% of pre-pandemic levels, it’s not difficult to see why.

So today they’ve announced a gimmick - sorry incentive - to entice you back: free bacon rolls from Greggs (well, only 1,000 of them for starters).

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Rail Delivery Group chief executive Jacqueline Starr said: “To encourage and support commuters as they return, the rail industry has launched a new commuter rewards website offering free hot drinks, mindfulness, course upgrades, music streaming, audiobooks and more to help enhance customers’ on-train and at-destination experiences.”

If you enter your name, your email, your phone number and your regular commute on their new website, you may get your hands on a £1.75 bacon roll - that’s if you move fast.

Another option among the incentives is a one-month free subscription to The Mindfulness App. Anyone who commutes regularly by train in the UK will probably have more need for this than anything else.

Perhaps a better way to lure people back might be to consider making train tickets more affordable?

While the UK may not have the most expensive train tickets in Europe as is often claimed, it’s not far off the top spot.

A 2016 report from the European Commission found that the UK had the fourth most expensive regional, peak, single fares bought on the day of travel, only behind Switzerland, Slovenia and Spain - and the UK was third priciest in Europe for tickets bought a week or a month in advance.

It also found that the UK had the most expensive inter-city fares for peak single tickets.

None of this is surprising to anyone who relies on the trains to get across the nation, whether it’s a regular short commute or a longer trip for work or a holiday.

If you want to get the faster train between Manchester and Leeds during peak hours, for example, it normally costs at least £23 for a single.

In Scotland, the cheapest peak return between Edinburgh and Glasgow (a journey of less than an hour each way) is now £27.60.

Comparing longer journeys, a rail return this weekend between Edinburgh and London costs around £155, compared to £104 for return flights with British Airways.

This tallies with research by consumer group Which? last year, which found that it is costing Brits 50% more to travel across the country by train compared to plane.

Of course, bigger savings on the rail network can be found the further ahead you book, but this isn’t always possible.

The exorbitant cost of travelling by train is especially frustrating at a time when we should be doing much more to encourage rail travel as the sustainable option - even if the Government bizarrely chose to cut air passenger duty on domestic flights in the last Budget.

Despite its green credentials, the rail industry has a huge challenge to entice people back. Even before Covid hit in England, just 2% of all journeys were by train, compared with 61% of trips by car.

Free bacon rolls might make us salivate, but most of us would prefer tickets that don’t break the bank.

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