4 Government Policy. This is unfathomable and defies any normal commercial logic. A while ago a rail minister was reported as saying that rail fares would be frozen for the next two years. Except he didn't. What he actually said was that rail fare INCREASES would be frozen. What that ACTUALLY meant was that rail fares would still increase every year but only in parallel with the rate of inflation. The latter is a statistic manipulated by Government and its agencies for political and (even worse) party political aims.
Throw all this in a big cauldron with the system of rail privatisation and franchising and it is no wonder that we have a crazy fares system. What is worse is that the whole shebang is so intertwined that unravelling it is close to impossible.
What is currently proposed ...
... is a very minor tweak to rationalise (NOT remove) some (NOT all) of the more obvious anomalies in the current (NON) system. For the vast majority of passengers, it will not make the slightest difference.
** fbb's chum, Barry Doe, has often expounded his view that, had British Railways been given the commercial freedom that it wanted, the possible benefits of "privatisation" (hamstrung by the dead hand of Government), could have been delivered more quickly and at less cost to the taxpayer.
Because any discussion on rail fares sinks inexorably in the the Bunyanesque Slough of Despond ...
Until then, however, a few questions about what happens now. It is really, really hard to find a "typical" set of fares associated with a typical set of "restrictions". So fbb has been looking at journeys between his "home" station, Axminster ...
Always reject sites like The Trainline which charge a fee. Use your local rail company site and always save money! The Trainline is NEVER, EVER the cheapest because of its charges.
Axminster to Andover
57.00 Anytime return
For Axminster, the peak premium price only applies to a few departures on Mondays to Fridays.
If it is used by so few people, why not withdraw the fare completely?
How much revenue would be lost across the Southwest Trains franchise?
Ah, but we must protect our peak revenue. Really? See below.
37.50 Off-peak return
This the fare paid by the vast majority of passengers travelling to Andover and back up to one month later. There are no time restrictions on the return leg.
Some journeys (elsewhere) have an off-peak single at roughly half the off-peak return price.
32.00 Off-peak DAY return
Why, pray, should it be cheaper to come back on the same day? Conversely, why should it be more expensive to stay away longer than a day?
32.10 Anytime DAY return
Why the extra 10p?
This price makes a nonsense of the "we must protect peak revenue" argument. The penalty for peak travel only applies if you want to stay away for more than one day.
28.50 Anytime single
Half the Anytime return.
Here you are being penalised if you don't want to come back!
Now we come to season tickets. These prices may well be a revelation to those who listen to the anguished cries of hard-done-by "commuters" every time rail fares are increased. It's always a "shock increase", of course, although such changes are usually announced months in advance.
26.70 Season day return
Weekly season ticket (£133.50) used five days a week
22.24 Season day return
Annual season ticket (£5340.00) used every working day
assuming five weeks holiday
And we need to remember that all extra journeys on the line of route are "free". There are also extra bonuses for holders of an Annual season via a Gold Card.
Is this differential the biggest rip-off on the railways?
There are no "Advance" tickets normally available for this journey ...
And for a complete picture, how much would the journey (return) by car? Aaagh!
Generally motorists do not cost their journeys "fairly". The AA provides a list of true car costs on-line, but there are so many variables that a definitive answer is almost impossible. This is a stab at a fair cost for a medium sized family car (bought new) doing about 30,000 miles a year.
Fuel, other consumables, repairs, parking etc.
Adding in the capital cost of the car, depreciation etc.
Obviously car sharing offers a massive saving, a deal that cannot be had for a rail commute!
As well as the dreaded "Advance" tickets, heavily restricted to one particular train and forfeit if you fail to travel, the other complexity is created by train company specific offers.
It works like this:-
A cheap offer day return fare (for example) from Birmingham to London might be £20. Under a mysterious computer analysis system called O R C A T S (Operational Research Computerised Allocation of Tickets to Services) this money is then allocated to all the possible train operating companies that you might use.
Virgin, London Midland, Chiltern and Cross Country (to name the main four) would all get a percentage irrespective of whose train you travel on. Virgin might get £13 out of the £20.
By offering you a ticket valid only on their own trains, companies can ensure that they get every penny of the fare, possibly more money than their share of a "normal" fare. A Virgin-only version might be £15 but the company will get it all, £2 more than the all operators price.
WARNING! Company only deals and discounts are ONLY available from that company's web site or, sometimes, from the company's exclusive ticket offices. They are not available from independent ticket sites, even if they are "the cheapest"!
It is a minefield and almost impossible to understand.
But fbb can offer a few suggestions.