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Confusing ‘simplification’ of rail fares



by sjhoward

This is the 1,316th post. It was published at 15:58 on Thursday, 24th April 2008.

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» News and Comment









It is reported that Rail Tickets are to be simplified into three new types: Advance, Off-Peak, and Anytime. Any simplification of over-complex ticketing is to be welcomed, but I’m confused.

Let’s consider the options for a simple return journey, with no changes, from Manchester to York, leaving at 10.57 on 30th April, and returning at 17.58 on the same day. All of these options are for the same couple of trains.

Single Ticket Outbound: Student Getaway C (£3.75), TPE Standard Advance Single D (£3.95), Student Getaway B (£4.75), TPE Standard Advance Single C (£4.95), Student Getaway A (£5.00), TPE Standard Advance Single B (£6.25), TPE Standard Advance Single A (£6.60), Standard Day Single (£12.85), TPE First Advance Single B (£16.00), TPE First Advance Single A (£17.00), or First Day Single (£25.70)

Single Ticket Inbound: Student Getaway A (£5.00), TPE Standard Advance Single B (£6.25), TPE Standard Advance Single A (£6.60), Standard Day Single (£12.80), or First Day Single (£26.30)

Return Ticket Choices: Saver Return (£15.25), Standard Day Return (£15.65), Standard Open Return (£17.80), or First Open Return (£51.40)

To summarise, there are fifty-nine different ticket combinations for the same return journey, on the same two trains.

The cheapest option for this return journey is actually to buy two singles, at a total cost of £8.75 – which would get me exactly the same seats on exactly the same trains as a £12.80 return or singles costing a total of £25.70.

Also note that a Standard Day Return is cheaper than one Standard Day Single – so if buying the ‘standard’ tickets, you’re better off buying a Return ticket for a Single Journey.

When you start to contemplate longer journeys, or journeys involving changes, things become unmanageably complex – especially when you consider that ticket splitting is an issue (which I’ve deliberately omitted above).

Bizarrely, this ‘simplification’ retains all of the above fares. There will still be fifty-nine different ticket combinations available, but now through an extra haze of only three different ticket names. Progress?

We are crap at running trains and it ia all our fault

» Image Credit: Original creation by Tom Goskar, modified under licence

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