UNDER the heading “Rip-off rail fares scrapped” The Times reports that “thousands of expensive long-distance fares” are to be axed from the National Rail database to ensure travellers get a cheaper deal”. But will they? The train companies’ are planning lower prices for long-distance journeys where passengers change trains along the route. Currently it is possible to pay up to £100 more for a single ticket covering he same journey. Another “innovation” will be to offer a lower price when two singles are cheaper than a return; to flag up the lowest prices on any particular route and warn passengers whether they can save money on later trains
But how did we get into the ludicrous situation in the first place where two singles were cheaper than a return? Wasn’t it always supposed to be the other way around? And the new plans don’t do anything to end the anomaly of split-ticketing, where travellers can buy multiple single fares for one rail journey and spend less than the price of a through ticket – and it’s not even necessary to get off the train. Nor are we likely to see an end to the baffling multiplicity of different fares on offer – can you tell the difference between a Super Off Peak and a an Off Peak – and have you a clue when the times apply? Meanwhile, the price for walk-on ticketswill still remain remains eye-waveringly high.
A really radical solution would be to go back to the old British Railways system of just four main fares – singles, returns, day returns and seasons. This would dramatically reduce the price of the most expensive fares at a stroke. True, we would lose the very cheapest fares – but might it be a price worth paying to end the confusion