Train fares: Con or confusion?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Confused train travellers at Leeds?

Does some masochist calculate train fares spending days in locked-up windowless, tea-deprived cells trying to calculate these unfathomable things? Many moons ago, did I dream that some government minister or another potential human say that the huge array of fares would be simplified or was that wishful thinking?

If I buy a ticket from Carmarthen to Leeds, for example, two weeks before I want to travel and on the 10.04 out one day and come back on the 15.25 two days later the cost is £118.80. But if I buy two separate tickets for exactly the same trains: one on Arriva Trains Wales to cover the Carmarthen-Manchester part and another on First Trans Pennine for the Manchester-Leeds route it costs me £82, a saving of £36.80 or 30%.

Go via London and it will cost more we are told. Avoid London and evade the rush. But is there such a rush in the middle of the day when commuters are at work? A fare from Exeter to Durham arriving in London for the change from Paddington to Kings Cross will cost £16.50 more than if London is avoided. But that isn’t always the case.

Go from Ipswich to Liverpool and the fare could be £79. But travel on exactly the same train to Liverpool Street in London and the ticket £76.70. There is no way a Virgin Trains ticket and the London Underground fare for the other part of the journey would be £2.30. An underground oyster card fare would be £2.10 alone.

We are close to the holiday season where holidaymakers will use trains for days out, weekends away and their holidays. They will rely on train company websites and human ticket-sellers to give them the best fares.We are used to being told to book ahead to get the best fares and that at peak times such as Christmas and Friday afternoons, prices will be higher. We are told we have a joined-up train system. We have joined-up fares too but fares that can be way more than we should pay. We are not told that a prospective traveller should spend an hour or so trying all sorts of permutations to get the best fare because even station staff don’t know what cheapest fare is! They are as confused as the rest of us.

Just how much money have train companies earnt over the years because we weren’t given the cheapest ticket when we asked?

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