Rail fare increases

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Image of GWR 125 train

The train waiting at platform 1 will cost an average of 3.4% from next January

It is that time of the year again when the percentage rail fares increases are announced. From January rail fares will go up by 3.4% except we all know that isn’t the real story. Some will rise by more and some by less.

As I write each year, it isn’t just commuters that get hit; holidaymakers and day trippers both of whom extensively use rail get hit as well although that seems to be glossed over when the media coverage begins. The mainstream media can always get a commuter to say that the increase is uncalled-for, that they might have to find a job closer to home and that the service hasn’t improved but the day-tripper is forgotten.

How can you save money over the fares that will be charged which makes an “anytime” return from Edinburgh to London in January 2018, £229.50 and a similar return from Cardiff to London £234.20? (This is ridiculous since the distance from Cardiff to London is less than half the distance from Edinburgh to London but the train companies will argue that it is because, on the Cardiff train, you will be arriving at peak times and that cheaper fares will exist if you don’t mind arriving at midday!)

You might make a saving by buying two single fares instead of a return one. The fare from Edinburgh to London return drops to £79 but you have to travel on the two trains that you nominate. Miss one and you will be charged extra.

But at least there is some competition on the Virgin East Coast line unlike the GWR long distance service

If you are under thirty or over sixty you can get a discount of about a third of the fare by buying a saver card. You can also save money by travelling outside the rush hour but that limits the time you can spend in your destination. You can also see if the fare would be cheaper if you split the fare so, on the Cardiff to London journey, it is sometimes cheaper to buy a Cardiff-Swindon ticket and then a Swindon-London ticket. If you will be using more than one rail company there might be a saving by buying a return ticket on the first train company you use and then another for the second company.

That you can save money in this way is indicative of the complexity of the ticketing system. Train companies are supposed to be improving the offers so that a machine will give you the cheapest fare but it never seems to suggest split ticketing, only the cheapest for the entire journey.

Each year, I write similar stories and no changes happen. Passengers feel the same. Just as you can be sure that night follows day, they know that prices will rise. And there is nothing they can do because the government just tinkers with the problem of understanding fares!

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