Rail fares and the holidaymaker

By | Category: Travel rumblings

As ever as a new year starts the first story with angst is always the rise in rail prices. This year it is less than the rate of inflation for the first time in 10 years when the above-inflation formula was devised by the old Labour government and continued by the coalition.

The comments I wrote last year still apply.

None of the press hoo-haa has talked of the impact for the visitor, the day-tripper and the holidaymaker, just the strapped commuter. It makes domestic tourism that much more uncompetitive with overseas holidays and might make some people decide to reduce their day-trips. The advice is – as usual – try to book well in advance or take advantage of the offers that become available. Another tip is to break you ticket down into fares covering each train operator.

Take, for example, a ticket taking you from Middlesbrough to Tenby for a half-term break in February. The return fare is £86 if booked today and you travel on two train companies, First Transpennine Express and Arriva Trains Wales. Book them separately, travel on exactly the same trains and it will cost you £81. Yes, that’s only a saving or a fiver but why waste money if you don’t have to? I compared a service leaving Middlebrough at 08.50 and returning a week later on a Saturday at 09.37. Greater savings can be made if you travel at more unsociable times.

A return fare, incidentally is a staggering £173.90 and I can fly half way around Europe for that! A first class return is £434.60 which isn’t dissimilar to my fare flying from Dublin to Los Angeles in a fortnight. And yes, I’m flying from Dublin because there is no APD in the Republic.

Rail fares have gone up by more than 50% in 10 years yet passenger numbers are rising. New stations are opening. New lines are being considered and opened. This is the fifth year I have wrung my hands about fare increases and little has changed other than an increase by only inflation this year. In the first story I wrote, I said that supermarkets had reduced prices as had airlines during the economic tough times. Rail fares just continued to rise. And when the number of passengers falls – as it will at some stage -will train operators follow their old ways and cut services, axe lines and close stations?

One day we might have some joined-up thinking. Who am I kidding? Only me.

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