FLIGHTS to European cities including Warsaw and Milan are cheaper than the price of a standard train ticket between Swindon and London.

The rising cost of rail fares means it can be less expensive to take a budget flight out of the country than a train into the capital.

The cheapest air fare between London Luton and Milan on October 12 was being offered for £21.99 by EasyJet yesterday.

An off-peak single between Swindon and London Paddington for the same date was priced at £31 on the First Great Western website.

The price rose to £56 for a fare allowing travel at any time of day.

Though the cheapest rail ticket was £18 – restricting the passenger to a single train – the price is still far less economical per mile when compared with air fares.

A return from London Stansted to Warsaw in October costs £19 with Ryanair, while flights with Monarch in September from London to Barcelona is £45, still cheaper than First Great Western’s anytime ticket.

Coun Kevin Small , chairman of Swindon Council’s Scrutiny Committee, said: “The price of train fares from Swindon is ridiculous. “I was in Amsterdam at the weekend and my ticket cost £117, which compares well to some journeys to London and back.

“When you go away for the weekend, the cheapest part of the journey is the air fare and it is the train travel which brings the cost right up. “I would rather go by train into London to catch a flight but it certainly works out cheaper to drive.”

Train fares are set to rise even further in January when the price of tickets increases.Passengers from Swindon will see an average 6.2 per cent rise.

The increases follow the retail prices index inflation figure for July – used to set regulated fares, including season and saver tickets – rising to 3.2 per cent from 2.8 per cent the previous month.

Coun Small said: “One of the arguments for privatisation of the railways was that it would lead to competition, but the lines are being run by monopolies on a regional basis.

“If you look at air travel there are a number of airports and airlines to choose from, but rail passengers in many places do not have the same choice.”

A First Great Western spokesman said the figures did not compare like with like and the cheapest tickets for train travel represented value for money in relation to other forms of travel.

A spokesman for First Great Western said: “The cheapest rail fare between Swindon and Paddington, an Advance Single is £7.50, and the cost of a season ticket is almost 10p per mile cheaper than taking a car. “An Advance Single from Swindon to Penzance is as little as £14.50. “While more flexible tickets will be priced higher, there are some good deals available and people are increasingly using these deals to travel by train.”

l Virgin Trains is set to be removed from running the West Coast Main Line under a deal proposed by the Government.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said that winning bidder FirstGroup would agree the 13-year deal with ministers today.