Great British Rail Fail
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ latest scheme has been to offer one million discounted train tickets over the next month in a bid to get Britons back on the nation’s tracks and, it is hoped, alleviate the cost-of-living while boosting domestic tourism. However, as is becoming a regular occurrence, website crashes restricted many people from making purchases, while other noted that some tickets had been offered even before the scheme had been launched. Moreover, given that the discounts are only available for around 1% of train journeys – and do not extent to peak times, Fridays or weekend’s – it is difficult to see how this scheme will make any meaningful difference for the vast majority of the UK’s train commuters. Hence, critics are arguing that any discounts should be offered for a prolonged period of time and be applicable for commuting hours, while any scheme aimed at actually tackling the cost of living vis-à-vis travel should more far-reaching. This is partially concerning for commuters given that ticket prices are forecast to increase 10% in 2023, in line with the retail price index. Nevertheless, many within the Railway industry are claiming that it is a welcome first step in driving numbers back up again.Owing to the pandemic, the number of journeys made by rail declined from 1.8bn in FY 2018-19 to 0.4bn in FY 2020-21, with journey’s still currently only at 75% of pre-Covid levels, according to the latest provisional figures from the Department of Transport. However, given that it cost the Treasury around £15bn to keep rail routes operational during the pandemic, No.11 are keen to receive some of this back so may be unlikely to grant Shapps his wish for further discounted tickets moving forward.

Britain stills remains one of the most expensive countries for rail fairs across Europe, with a 50mile ticket from Paddington to Oxford costing 55 pence per mile in 2019. According to data from Vochercloud, a similar journey would cost 46 pence per mile in Norway while cotising 19 pence in Germany, 9 pence in Poland and 4 pence in Turkey. Indeed, the average across Europe is 14 pence per mile, indicating that Britain is not merely the most expensive country to travel by train but is almost four times the continent’s average. Despite its price, the UK ranks amongst the highest number of passenger-kilometres travelled each year at 85 billion in 2015. This is well above the US at 32.5 (billion passenger-kilometres travelled pa) but well below Japan at 446 (billion passenger-kilometres travelled pa).

Sky News has more:

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World Debt
Following concerns raised over the implications of the war in Ukraine on global growth, the IMF are also increasingly worried over the impact of the vast increase in global debt levels. Over the course of the pandemic, private sector debt rose thirteen percentage points of global GDP which represented a higher rate of increase than during the 2008 financial crash. This means that total debt across the world in the private sector is now 150% of global GDP, and when accounting for government debt this figure rises to 250%. Hence, given rising interest rates the increasing cost of servicing this debt will cause a drag on growth with the IMF expecting it to hinder output by 0.9% over the next three years in developed countries and 1.3% in developing countries. Developing economies have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and have seen average debt levels rise from 52% of GDP before the pandemic to 67% today. Therefore, as much of this debt is USD denominated, all eyes will be focused on the FEDs next interest rate decision on 4th May where the markets are increasingly pricing in the prospect of a 50bp rate hike. Such predictions have seen increasing dollar strength with the DXY exceeding 101 yesterday evening as 10 year treasury yields edged close to 3%.

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The War in Ukraine
​​​​​Following the start of a new Russian offensive in Eastern Ukraine, Moscow has given Ukrainian fighters in the port city of Mariupol a new ultimatum to surrender their arms by 11:00 (GMT) today. In line with other such ultimatums, there is little chance of this being met and thus fierce fighting is expected to continue as Zelensky has called on the West to deliver more weapons. Washington is reportedly planning another $800m arms package as other allies are now sending fighter jets to help support Ukraine’s defence.

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Party-Gate
Yesterday, Boris Johnson made his first comments on the party-gate scandal to the House of Commons since having been found to have broken the law by the Metropolitan Police last week. The apology did little to assuage his critics with Sir Keir Starmer stating that it was “a joke” and Ian Blackford calling Johnson a “a serial offender”. Fierce criticisms also came from the PMs own side with the former Tory Chief Whip, Mark Harper handing his letter of no-confidence to the 1922 committee after he told Johnson that he was no longer “worthy of the great office that he holds”.  This follows Conservative MP Nigel Mills also announcing last week that he had handed his letter of no confidence and while many commentators consider there to be around a dozen such letters, it is still a long way off the 54 needed to trigger a vote over Johnson’s leadership.

Nevertheless, Johnson is also having to navigate the fact that tomorrow he will face a vote from MPs over whether he ought to be investigated for misleading Parliament – following a decree made by the Speaker yesterday. If passed, this would see him face a parliamentary investigation from the Privileges committee into the extent to which he misled the house, as it becomes increasingly apparent that he broke the Ministerial Code. If he was found to be in breach of these codes then the consequences may include having to make an official apology, be suspended, or even dismissed from the house.

As party-gate continues to dominate airtime in the commons, the Met are still investigating a dozen alleged breaches of covid restrictions at Downing Street, with Johnson reportedly attending six of these. He has thus far been issued by two fines with the prospect of more highly likely.

The Independent has more:

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