Boris Johnson has been branded a hypocrite for taking a short helicopter flight from London to the West Midlands to promote a local bike hire scheme.
The train journey would have taken him just over two hours.
Critics branded the flight 'completely unnecessary' and said it cast serious doubt on the sincerity of the prime minister’s promise to fight the climate crisis.
Johnson took the 50-minute helicopter ride in a Sikorsky S-76C on 5 May, departing from north-west London and landing at Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green airport.
He then travelled to Stourbridge to meet Andy Street, who was subsequently re-elected as West Midlands metro mayor.
“Great to show the PM around Stourbridge by bike,” Street tweeted.
Great to show the PM around Stourbridge by bike as well as visiting local businesses & residents
Having Govt's support over the past 4 years has been key to driving investment & jobs so I hope I'll have the opportunity to continue to fight for our regionhttps://t.co/GDymh329gt
— Andy Street (@andy4wm) May 5, 2021
Johnson and Street used bicycles from the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme during the trip and were pictured cycling along a canal together.
The helicopter Johnson flew in is registered to the digger manufacturer JCB, whose chairman is the billionaire Tory peer and frequent donor to the Conservative party Lord Bamford, The Guardian reports.
The prime minister also used a helicopter to travel to Wolverhampton on 19 April, landing at a local golf club. During the visit, he took the controls of a tram at the West Midlands Metro depot in Wednesbury.
This isn't the first time Johnson has been criticised for flying short distances.
In December 2019, while campaigning for the general election, he took a private jet from Doncaster to Darlington, which are less than one hour apart by train.
Leo Murray, a co-director at the climate charity Possible, said: “The prime minister’s decision to travel by helicopter and private jet for election campaigns on trips that could easily have been made by train is very troubling.
"He either does not understand the implications of the climate targets he has signed Britain up to, or he is not serious about doing what needs to be done to meet them.
“Imagine the positive message [travelling by train] would have sent to the British public about public transport use post-Covid.
“It really casts doubt on the sincerity of the recent, very welcome messages from the government about the climate crisis.”
Johnson has made action on the climate crisis a central part of his agenda, promising green jobs to 'level up' deprived areas.
On 6 May, Johnson told other world leaders that the climate crisis would be 'right at the heart of the agenda' of the G7 summit in Cornwall this summer, which he claimed would be 'completely carbon neutral'.
Nadia Whittome, Labour MP for Nottingham East, said: “Boris Johnson taking a private helicopter from London to the West Midlands is clearly completely unnecessary.
“But beyond the prime minister’s personal actions, it’s the government’s hypocrisy on spending and legislating to tackle the climate crisis that really concerns me.
“Johnson has said he wants to cut taxes on domestic flights. It shouldn’t be cheaper to fly in the UK than to take the train, but our overpriced, privatised rail system means that it often it is.”
A Conservative party spokesman said: “It has long been the case that party leaders make visits across the country during election campaigns using a wide variety of transport.
"Such visits are an important part of the democratic process, so politicians, including prime ministers, can visit as many places as possible within time constraints.
“Under this Conservative government, we’ve reduced carbon emissions faster than any other G7 country, are producing a record amount of electricity from renewable sources and are a world leader in offshore wind."