Rail fares could kill the growth

I have done a couple of  TV interviews on the steep rail fare rises today and it is striking that the mood out there is very angry. The fares regulation rules were designed to protect people who had no choice other than to use the railways, notably south east commuters, and it is they who are hardest hit.

Having 12 per cent slapped on the price of your ticket, as has been the case some commuters on Southeastern as the price of having the high speed line, is really excessive and completely against the spirit of the legislation. Train operators I have talked to are confident that the growth in usage is not going to be affected, but I am not so sure. Of course petrol prices are rising, too, but that is always a much more hidden cost which motorists tend to just put up with. Season tickets are upfront money coming out in one lump sum. So they hurt more.

This is, of course,just the start of things to come. For reasons that are unclear – though probably out of fear that rises of near double digits across the board would be unapalatable – Hammond has postponed the RPI plus three per cent rise until next year, but by the end of this run of rises, many people may well have fled from the railway. That in turn will diminish the case for investment and, indeed, for HS2.

There is, of course, no logic to any of this. A government that was really interested in boosting rail use permanently would have a coherent strategy to do so, not have a policy that is supportive of rail investment on the one hand, but  then deterring people from using the railway on the other.

  • Ian Raymond

    Well said Christian, and as you say there is no logic behind this. Might be worthwhile pointing out that passengerfocus if a true watchdog should have a few more teeth and powers on issues like this, but of course they are funded from govt so poacher/gamekeeper etc., although it was good to see them speaking out against the increases.

    There are two specific points:
    1) Is that the government says the is necesary to ensure a fairer balance between taxpayers and passengers contributions, to which the obvious response is that isn’t it largely successive government’s / DfT’s fault that the railway is so damn expensive and why the hell should we pay so much more in walk on fares than our European neighbours? (Don’t even get me started on the blurb that rail users aren’t seen as taxpayers)
    2) And what really irks is when ATOC then blandly trots out the line that it funds improved services. This is a blatant lie when much new kit is in fact considerably less comfortable than what has gone before (OK, hands up, I admit I’m thinking of Voyagers here), connectivity has been reduced through route changes, catering is now a very reduced offer or nonexistant and overcrowding is far more rife. Seeing as services have thus not in fact improved, should we not have reduced fares until they do? (OK, if only).

    I must say though Christian I think you’re being a bit London-centric in your comment that London commuters will be hardest hit. I’m not bellittling in any way the financial impact of this on those in the SE – many employees I expect won’t be seeing a pay increase this year – but as someone who travels 10 times a year (or more) from the NW to SW to care for family, this will be a very hard pill to swallow for many so-called ‘leisure’ users who are non-motorists. This is very much a national issue – not just L&SE.

    Sorry all – I’m being a bit too grumpy for such an early time in the year!

  • Pingback: Rail fare rises could stymie growth | Christian Wolmar | Proctor()

  • Rhydgaled

    Nationalise to cut costs, fix fares at RPI+0 and hay presto the taxpayer’s share of rail funding goes down, without rasing fares. As the compare the meerkat ad says, ‘simples’!

    Ok, maybe not that simple, as leglislation would be needed to get the owners of rolling stock to hand it over, and another massive chunk of savings requires figuring out how to reduce Network Rail’s costs, which is probablly not simple either, but on the whole much better than rasing fares.

  • “Having 12 per cent slapped on the price of your ticket, as has been the case some commuters on Southeastern as the price of having the high speed line…”

    Eh? Doesn’t this logic imply that there was a possibility of HS1 running via Essex or Devon instead of Kent? Last time I checked, Kent was the *only* sensible option for a Channel Tunnel, and I don’t understand why the people of Kent are expected to pay a premium for a service that, even via HS1, still manages *lower* average speeds than a London-Brighton express!

    It’s not the people of Kent’s fault that successive governments have kicked any and every attempt to rectify the many problems of that county’s infrastructure into the long grass with the excuse that it’s “too hard”. We can put men on the bloody moon, but we can’t get a train to travel the paltry distance between Gravesend and Charing Cross in less than an hour? Seriously?

    I’m so glad I buggered off to Italy a year ago. I’m living near a city—it’s called “Rome”; you may have heard of it—that boasts not one, but *two* fully-functioning ring roads, one of which was recently rebuilt to motorway standard. (The inner ring road makes a mockery of London’s embarrassing South Circular.)

    And Rome is, as I write, dualling some of its railway lines *and* building TWO brand new metro lines *simultaneously*. Not extensions, please note, but *new lines*. (They’re working on extensions and completing their ring railway too, but that’s just showing off.)

    And all that for rather less than the cost of HS2.

    I weep for Britain. I really do. How the mighty have fallen.

  • RapidAssistant

    It’s interesting though that the discount fares haven’t gone up – go onto Virgin/East Coast and you are still seeing London-Scotland advance fares still down at the £14 mark if you book right on the 12-week window – I’m surprised that ATOC are not yet pouting this sort of thing as some sort of half-hearted excuse for the fares increase that season ticket holders and walk-up passengers will have to face.

    Like the “we use the money to improve services” line that Ian is alluding to…..the availability of advance fares is always used as the carrot on the end of the stick – rather too much these days IMHO and its a pretty lame excuse since I don’t put diesel in my car in anticipation of where I want to drive in 12 weeks’ time so why should the railways be any different?

  • Jobes

    Not only has the Southeastern season ticket for Canterbury-London gone up by nearly 12%, but it’s gone up by about 10% a year for the past 5 years. How are the TOCs allowed to get away with this? If you’ve stayed with the mainline train, you’re paying £2,000 more for a journey which is now 5 mins longer. If you’ve switched to HS1, you’re paying nearly £6,000 a year, nearly double what you paid in 2006. Regulated fares, my foot.

  • Stephen G

    Christian – this is the whole point of the rises – as the government has no solution to deal with long-term passenger & freight growth, so the easy alternative is to increase fares to drive down demand. Classic 80s rail policy.

    I’m convinced that the Tory rail policy boils down to cutting back the network à la Serpell to the minimum size possible, believing that this is the only way of reducing the subsidy. The next step will be to “empower” TOCs to act more like commercial operators in the name of decentralisation. They can then reduce service frequency on less remunerative lines and introduce inconvenient timetabling to allow the line to be rundown and then closed. McNulty has been briefed accordingly and it will be sold to the public as a necessary means of cutting the deficit. In return for their cooperation, TOCs will continue trousering the subsidy for a diminishing number of routes.

    Whilst this mayhem unfolds, £32bn is thrown at a duplicative high speed line which few will be able to afford and which will not compete with the low-cost airlines.

  • Greg Tingey

    “Discount Fares” ( # 5 )
    Like the restrictions on the All-Line Rover?
    ATOC are a cartel of greedy lying crooks.

    ( Unlike LUL, who are just incompentent bullying liars)

  • Peter

    All this on a day when Communities Secretary, and Champion of Nimbys, Eric Pickles, announced (several months after Hammond announced it) that the mythical “war on motorists” is at an end, then went on to announce that restrictions on the amount of parking space in new housing developments are to be scrapped.

  • Richard


    As to Network Rail’s costs (and I’ve seen from the inside) a suggestion

    remove the third person doing a different half of the same job to the other two

  • Matt

    If I could put an alternative view:

    At the moment 50% of the railway is taxpayer funded. Most of the usage is the in the wealthiest part of the country, London and the South East. It is used by relatively wealthy people, and by that I mean those who pay 40% income tax.

    Therefore, why should someone on a low income, who cannot afford to travel pay for rail travel, pay for half the real cost of a wealthy person’s season ticket?

    Comparison’s have been made with the 1980s, the raising of prices to ‘burn off’ demand.

    However, people now have more of a choice. Firstly there is the greater accessibility of broadband, so people can work, not shirk, from home. Secondly, the growth of Pay as You Go will allow people to travel on cheaper services, so demand can be better managed throughout the peak periods.

    As much as people will complain, the prices rises are a good thing – it will allow market signals to be sent which will lead to resources being more efficiently used.

    A 50% travel subsidy to some of the country’s top earners is not, in my view, efficient.

  • RapidAssistant

    @ Matt – that is way too simplistic to say – yes indeed the home counties carry a huge proportion of the total passenger mileage, equally remember that many of the London franchises (SWT for example) make premium payments because they are profitable and pay their way, don’t forget either that in BR days, Network SouthEast broke even with a bit of jiggery-pokery.

    Therefore when you look at the whole cross-subsidisation merry go round either pre- or post privatisation – it can be argued that the London commuter network actually helps to subsidise the rest of the network and keep the overall subsidy lower. What needs to be done is to control the costs of the entire network as a whole (that boils down to Network Rail’s out of control debt, and paying profits to ROSCOs), and encouraging modal shift in the other regions.

    It’s a myth that ‘everyone in London is wealthy’ – the so-called “wealthy” can afford to live near the centre and therefore don’t have to commute as far – I have plenty of friends that have been priced out of the capital by punitive house prices and rents and can barely survive living on the outskirts paying equally punitive rail fares to commute in a standing-room only 12-car train. No wonder secondary financial centres have been established in the likes of Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester and the big financial firms have moved their junior positions to these sites.

    But that in turn sparks a wider question of the dangers of the nation’s economy being centralised in one place – would HS2 encourage even more long distance commuting as the HST did 30-odd years ago?? The evidence would certainly suggest so.

  • Stuart Shurlock

    Sean Baggerley may have a good time in Rome, but he’s obviously not keeping up with rail developments in London. We currently have two mega-projects underway, Thameslink and Crossrail which when both open will revolutionise travel in the capital. Less than a year ago, a new ‘metro’ line opened – the East London Line, with extensions both north and south already on the go. DLR has just not stopped expanding ever since it was first dreamed up in the 1980s. That alone is bigger than many European city networks. Electrification of the Great Western suburban trains is also now on the books. It’s not just London either, Manchester is dramatically expanding the Metrolink network, and several other cities are on the brink of expanding theirs. Let’s just hope we can afford the ticket prices !

  • Matt


    Couple of points – firstly SSWT are in revenue support, and won’t be paying cash to the Treasury any time soon.

    Secondly, I agree about the diagnosis of the problem (railway is too expensive), but it is not solely down to Network Rail and the ROSCOs. It is due to misaligned incentives, and the fact that no-one body is responsible for costs (Network Rail is accountable to the ORR, TOCs to their shareholders)

    For example, through Network or Station change, TOCs can hold NR ransom to get improvements that it wants- and the bill for these is eventually picked up by the taxpayer.

    Also, does the railway need to be as big as it is now? 80% of the subsidy goes to TOCs that carry 20% of passengers. Could that money be better spent on other transport solutions?

  • RapidAssistant

    Matt – apologies about inaccuracy, I knew that at least one of the London franchises is profitable, or near as dammit – given the fierce (and over-optimistic) bidding for the London commuter franchises – its clear that the TOCs regard them as a licence to print money (on top of all the safety nets included in the franchising system) which was bascially my point that this the next most self-sustaining part of the passenger network after InterCity.

    It is dangerous to look at a pure economic argument based on statistics – yes 80% of the subsidy goes to the TOCs that only carry 20% of the passengers. Fair point. But then you get right back into the arguments that CW has made that the railways bring unquantifiable benefits that can’t be captured through analysing the fare revenue. For that matter, the same argument probably goes for subsidising any public service that – however commercially unviable it is in raw economic terms…still remains vital for the wider interests of society.

    Why single out the railways then…..where do you stop? – the NHS?, refuse collection?, the fire brigade?, libraries?…and so on. It was exactly these sort of over-simplistic arguments that inspired Beeching, and there is a serious danger of making the same mistakes here.

    It does unearth a bit of a paradox that politicans have been unwilling thusfar to recognise these ‘unquantifiable benefits’ when it comes to upgrading and extending the existing railway….yet they are pulling them out all over the place when it comes to justifying HS2….

  • Stuart Shurlock

    Do we know how much subsidy goes into our near neighbours’ railways? My guess is that the Netherlands has the network most suited to making money – dense population in big cities, although those cities are packed fairly close together, so the fares may be restrained by the apparent price per mile. My work experience there suggests that their motorways have occasional spectacular jams, stretching from city to city, so the incentive to use the train is reasonably great. Next ought to be Belgium, but it’s even smaller, and somehow doesn’t give the impression of efficiency, although my limited personal experiences have all been OK. Germany has the advantage of massive cities spread all around the place, but it also has a huge autobahn network. I cannot compare prices, just can say that German prices do not seem such a comparative bargain since the £ devalued itself vs the Euro. What I am trying to get at is that the structures adopted over there might give a clue as to how to get best value, without having to push fares to the point where the total income fails to rise any more.

  • Rhydgaled

    @RapidAssistant: Quote:(that boils down to Network Rail’s out of control debt, and paying profits to ROSCOs)

    Almost what I’m saying, although you missed a few bits. I’d put:
    it boils down to Network Rail’s out of control costs (ok debt needs sorting too), and paying profits to ROSCOs and TOCs. The subsidy to each TOC would go further (or could be reduced) if they didn’t take profits. Even the TOCs with franchises which pay premium payments to the government (yes, they do/did exist but I don’t know which ones) take a slice of the profit for themselves, meaning greater cross-subsidy would be possible without the TOCs taking profit.

    All these reasons add up to form my opinion that the railways should be nationalised. While we’re at it, how is privatisation meant to work for anything that can’t really pay for itself (eg. the RAF rescue helicopters, or do the government expect pepole to pay to be rescued?) Imagine that, helicopter comes to rescue you and the private company’s winchman tells you “Give us £1500 and we’ll resuce you, otherwise we’ll leave you to die.” It simply isn’t going to work!

    Railways are important for combating climate change as they are the only form of public transport capable of beating the private car for journeys between settlements in terms of journey time. Buses only have a hope of achiving this within congested built-up areas where bus-lanes are present. Rail is also more attractive to passengers than a bus journey for some reason, just listen to all the complaints about rail replacment buses. Having feeder lines into the mainline and INTERCITY network is also important, parking at the stations in the major towns can be very difficult so pepole can’t be expected to use the train once they have driven that far anyway.
    Beeching’s cuts where a huge mistake that must never be repeated, and many of them need to be reversed in one way or another.

  • RapidAssistant

    I think the reason why we are not seeing mass revolts (so far anyway..) is that the public are learning to put up with rising costs in the midst of repairing our broken economy, lets face it fuel is now is as expensive as it was the last time it peaked in mid-2008, yet apart from the usual grumbling from the haulage industry people are just getting on with things. Equally there has been no talk of revolution against the coalition government, no ‘second winter of discontent’ as some pundits were predicting 6 months ago.

    This is either a good thing or a bad thing whichever way you look at it – IMHO revolting against fuel tax is a dead-end as this is a small taste of things to come once we hit peak oil, and maybe there is an acceptance starting to filter in to society that our car loving ways are going to have to come to an end. But this exactly the circumstances where the railway should be highlighting its advantages against the motor car…instead we get the usual January bad press about record fares increases and people being screwed by the TOCs.

    Another railway own goal….ATOC doesn’t do itself any favours whatsoever!

  • Peter

    These fare increases typify the muddled thinking of Hammond and his satellites.

    On the one hand they tell us that we must subsidise impractical and expensive electric cars (who wants a £28,000 car that has a range of about 50 miles on a cold day?) to the sum of £5000 a time – all for the sake of the environment.

    On the other hand they make sure that rail fares increase well ahead of inflation. Which can only force more people to resort to driving – which means more pollution and congestion.

    Where is the logic in any of this?

  • RapidAssistant

    It boils down to one (or two) things Peter, firstly the government is still hell-bent on making the railways pay for themselves by trying to move more of the cost burden to the fare payer, rather than the taxpayer….the continued pursuit of a Holy Grail that doesn’t exist – the self-sustaining network. Raising fares is classic “curing the symptom rather than the disease” – which in this case is out of control costs – Network Rail, debt on interest, ROSCOs and servicing the whole legal framework that underpins the 100s of interfaces in the industry structure etc. etc.

    Second comes the fallacy that competition can be used to leverage fare reduction – as others have said countless times before, there is no workable way of facilitating true on-rail competition under the current structure.

    However many times you regurgitate all these arguments you land back at the same conclusion – no industry structure, either nationalised or privatised, can sweep one fundamental fact under the carpet – that the railways are an inherently loss making industry and need to be subsidised.

  • Matt

    Rapid: “the railways are an inherently loss making industry and need to be subsidised”

    Are you referring to just UK railways or all railways in the world?

    Or only the loss making parts of the UK railway?

    If UK railways can’t be profitable, what is an acceptable level of loss? Is it 50% or 25%

    (congrats on the name check in Mr Wolmar’s Rail article by the way)

  • RapidAssistant

    I am referring to passenger railways (i.e. not freight) in general.

    In the strictest sense it should be something like 90% farepayer 10% taxpayer given only 6% of the population use a railway. Equally 80% of the passenger miles is carried on something like 20% of the network. These distributions are meaningless because as I’ve said before, these over-simplistic assessments do not take into account the unquantifiable social benefits – e.g. the coal deliveries (by rail) that drive the power stations that are generating the electricity that allows you to look at this PC screen for instance. How do you accurately quantify the value of that?? You can’t.

    Trying to justify therefore the proportion of subsidy is a pointless exercise until you get rid of the inherent waste that is in the system – what is being p***ed up the wall paying profit margins, dividends, lawyers, consultants, picking up the tab for mis-management, ‘gold plating’ and so on.

    Give us an efficient industry first, then you can look at the bigger picture. Fare increases is just curing the symptom, rather than the disease which is costs.

  • Dan

    What about the percentage of the public who don’t use the railway, but rely on services (public and private) provided by those who need to use the railway to get to work to provide those services…that could be a pretty endless list from shop workers at Meadowhall to savings investors relying (ok I use the word ‘relying’ theoretically) on city bankers to invest their pension funds well?

  • Matt

    Rapid: I agree there are a lot of external benefits from railways. But you must agree that there are lines for which there is no economic logic, quantifiable or not. These a lines are only kept open for political reasons – the UK version of what they call in the US ‘pork’.

    If the UK railway could focus on profitable lines, with some small subsidy for the ‘externalities’ (the coal train is a good example), then the railway could be in a position to properly exploit its strengths

  • Flitwick Livestock

    Matt – Someone somewhere must be making a profit out of the “privatised” railway otherwise WorstGroup, Souter-Rail, Deutsche Bundesbahn, Nedrail et all wouldn’t be falling over each other to bid for the next round of franchises. The main problem is that their “profit” is actually our taxes recycled via the guaranteed payments the TOCs get, regardless of how well they serve their customers. These customers are also taxpayers as well as ticker-holders. WorstGroup seem to regard their franchises as a never-emptying trough into which it continually thrusts its snout. If you read the financial press the assumption is that rail franchises are a no-loss investment, you either rake in the profit from sweating the assets, cutting staff, reducing pay & conditions and putting up the fares or you get a hefty slug of cash from DfT if your sums didn’t add up when you tendered. Even then you can still get away scot free from any financial problems by handing back the keys a la GNER. The whole system is rotten to the core and demands re-nationalisation.

  • Stuart Shurlock

    Flitwick – National Express used up a large amount of their own dosh before walking away from the East Coast franchise. I suspect GNER did the same, but possibly less than NE, because DfT were a tiny bit more wary the second time, and demanded a bigger bond from the successful bidder. One of the inherent waste areas involved in franchises is bidding costs. Every bidder has to put a price in which not only recovers the bidding costs for that bid, but for those it is sure to lose as well. So if four bidders regularly turn up, assuming an average 1in 4 success rate, they need to put a price in which will recover four times the costs of that individual bid. And bids cost £millions!

    Also, the hefty slugs of cash from Dft only arrive later in the franchise. That’s why NE used up all the contractually agreed money and saw no more coming. There is a naive multitude out there who somehow think that shareholders should subsidise passengers out of their own pockets. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) applies to DfT as much as anyone, and they are utterly stupid if they think that by squeezing the bidders hard, they will get something for nothing. No-one can go into business or investment with the idea of making a significant loss. Those companies fold rapidly, as their banks pull the plug on them.

    Mad Bob Crow put me off renationalisation for many years, but I admit now that the time may well be right. It won’t be a total solution, but it should provide a seriously focussed management that takes the whole railway into account when it makes investment decisions, and doesn’t need ten thousand contracts to manage the internal interfaces in the industry. It could also regularly respond to reality and do the adjustments and reorganisations that all companies need, without recourse to legislation or franchise intervals or contractual renegotiation. My only fear is the industrial relations power it would give back to mad Bob.

  • Richard Hare

    I’m about as right wing as they come, but not only do I think the railways should be renationalised, I also think they should be free to use (maybe allow reservation and first class supplements).
    My rationale? Because it seems generally agreed they’re a GOOD THING, have (pretty well) quantifiable cost benefits and it’d only lose an annual fare income of £10bn, I’d as soon see my taxes spent on this than on any of the dozens of other also apparently good things the country has deemed should be free at the point of use,.
    The argument about why should non-users pay is irrelevant. Most taxpayers don’t use the things they’re paying for. I’m paying for roads, hospitals, police, army, etc etc and effectively use none of them.
    And unlike the health service, free provision of which almost certainly leads to a laissez faire approach to personal health responsibility, the alternative to railways is roads (assuming the journey was necessary at all), which we genuinely do wish to deter people from using as they’re not only too busy but also very expensive in lives.

  • Richard Hare

    My mistake. A mere £6bn fare revenue.


    Lots to sneer at on that page!

  • Dan

    Stuart – you can say what you like about Bob Crow but he has got a far better deal for his memebrs under privatisation than would veen have happened under nationalisation! Yes, he’s have oppsed reform and reduced staffing levels (which is what his memebrs pay him to do) but pay increases would have been much closer to the public sector norm than they have been since privatisation. Of course this applies to ASLEF too, if not more so.

    Privatisation has been a recipe for pay inflation. Flitwick is correct.

    Also Stuart, it’s not quite true that the hefty cash comes late in franchises. Virgin were to get heavy subsidy early in franchise and then pay back dosh a bit later – when ‘a bit later’ arrived surprise surpise they did not pay in, but got more subsidy for longer.

    BR might not have been perfect, far from it – but it cost about 5 times less so could be argued did at least provide something approximating to ‘value for money’….

  • Flitwick Livestock

    Don’t forget, the railways were privatised by a lame duck PM presiding over a government that did not have long for this world. Major thought he could rustle up some quick votes by selling off what was left of the family silver and cooking the books to show how it would save the country £billions. The trouble was that old BR wasn’t the family silver, it was E.P.N.S!

    Sir Peter Parker famously described BR as “the crumbling edge of quality” but even if the rolling stock was tired and the unions militant at least you could roll up at any station (assuming it was staffed) and buy a ticket to anywhere else on BR without worrying whether it would be valid on the train.

    I remember when trains and buses joined up, with one ticket that allowed you to start your journey on one NBC bus, then get on a train and get off at the other end to finish the journey on another NBC bus. It was called “integrated transport”. Now the Competition Commission would demand to know about such anti-competitive practices, regardless of whether the passenger gets a better service and a cheaper fare.

    The current situation is, in my view, a blueprint for how not to finance, run and develop a cohesive and cost-effective transport network. But then again experience shows that with most former nationalised services, privatisation adds cost to the consumer at the same time as worsening the service.

  • Dan

    Flitwick – observation very well made – it saddens me that there is a general failure to properly analyse the consumer impact of privatisation in general, and instead we are often presetned with rose tinted views or music hall joke scenarious in any assessment.

    The added costs to consumers of poor quality service by privatised firms that are indirect are often substantial (eg my recent experience of dealing with an overseas BT call centre where staff could clearly only speak from a script whilst the problem required diversion from the script to have any hope of a solution, wasted much of my time, which is an increased cost for me – after sevral frustrating phone calls I ended up writing to the Chief Exec, which elicited telephone calls from his office – so more wasted money for them).

    It would be interesting to know, using real data, if things like fuel bills, phone bills etc were cheaper in real terms for consumers now we are 10, 20 + years on from privatisation.

  • rural voter

    The advertising of advance fares is so misleading

    I live in a region where there aren’t any at all presumably because one TOC has a monopoly

    So if travelling at off-peak hours I now drive. I only use trains to London or Bham or other places which are hopelessly congested.

    30 competing companies, networlk rail, intercompany disputes …it’s a farce. Please renationalise the entire system.

  • Dan

    Rural Voter – how does this work then? I seem to be able to find Adavnce fares that cross TOCs on journeys (eg EMT – Southern / EC – Southern) but I admit not always – then I consider a split ticket on occasion. I don’t think it has anythign to do with monmopoly position – it’s abotu filling seats that are otherwise empty.

    What routes are you thinking of?

    For TOCs who run services using 2 or 3 car units I can see that there is no point in offering advance fares – there are not the empty seats to fill – that is what Advance is for after all – but ATOC are now using it to pretend travel is cheaper than it is – of course only on empty flows it may be!

  • Jobes

    @Rural Voter, @Dan: an example:

    As far as I can see, you won’t get a London-Canterbury off peak return for under £25 no matter how far in advance you book, and this is the walk-on fare. No Apex, no Saver, no Advance, nothing. If you don’t take HS1, it’s probably faster as well as cheaper to drive!

    Interestingly, there do seem to be lots of *different* “off-peak return” fares if you make the journey in reverse, ranging from £20 to £25+ …Hmmm, Southeastern even manages to make simple complicated.

  • Ian Raymond

    Can’t speak for London and the South, but travelling from the Northwest to Devon it is very difficult to find advance fares – except at times no-one wants to travel. Curiously (ha!) it used to be much easier to get advance fares before the cross-country franchise was pruned by some faceless idiot at the DfT (although that weak-kneed body ATOC didn’t exactly protest – do they ever!).

    Have checked, and after the last bout of fare rises for some up-coming trips it will work out cheaper to fly – even allowing for taxes, charges, and the travel costs of getting to/from Manchester & Exeter airports (and a lot more comfortable, given the appalling passenger envrionment X-Country now offers). How can that make sense?