Rishi Sunak defends using RAF jet to fly 41 minutes to Lancashire

Rishi Sunak has defended using a small RAF jet to fly to Lancashire instead of taking a train.

The prime minister flew on an RAF jet from Northolt in west London to Blackpool Airport after announcing the latest round of levelling up funding.

Labour accused Mr Sunak of "jetting around the country on taxpayers' money like an A-list celeb" and said it made a "mockery" of his environmental strategy.

The 41-minute flight came 10 days after he used the same plane to fly 36 minutes from London to Leeds.

Asked about flying instead of taking a train to Morecambe, where he was giving a speech, Mr Sunak said: "I travel around so I can do lots of things in one day, I'm not travelling around just for my own enjoyment - although this is very enjoyable, of course.

"I'm travelling around so I can talk to people in Accrington this morning, then I've talked to you, then I'm going to get over to Hartlepool because I'm working on all of your behalves.

"Trust me, I'm working as hard as I can to deliver for you and I travel to make myself as effective as possible."

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A train journey from London Euston to Blackpool takes just under three hours, with a single standard class ticket costing £73.40 off-peak or £189.80 in peak times, while first class costs £257.

Avanti West Coast, which runs the trains on that line, was experiencing disruption and delays on Thursday.

Downing Street defended Mr Sunak taking a plane, saying it was "the best use of his time".

Mark Jenkinson, a Conservative MP, defended the PM's jet use, saying: "He's the prime minister, multiple train changes with a security detail and unreliable Avanti West Coast would be madness."

The French-built Dassault Falcon 900 trijet is owned by the RAF and used by the Royal Family - its tail is emblazoned with the union flag and it is branded with the Royal Seal as well as the RAF logo.

Mr Sunak also used it on a visit to Leeds on 9 January.

The RAF purchased two Dassault Falcon 900s for £80m last year and they are both based at RAF Northolt.