Monday 14 November 2011

Hail! Tottenham Hale [1]

From Home to Hoddesdon.
It was Mrs fbb's prayer and bible study conference last week. It takes place at High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. Mrs fbb goes by train.

So begins the battle for the best value fares. Note that these enquiries, as illustrated her, are for a future date; the confuser won't allow you to ask for the past.
The obvious route is via Southwest Trains to Waterloo, bus to Liverpool Street (rather than tube; less hassle) and National Express to Broxbourne. 3 hours and 7 minutes ...
... a reasonable fare which includes old codgers discount. But can you do better? Southern Railway offers the following schedule ...
... at 3 hours and 10 minutes; this despite a significantly slower run from Portsmouth into London Victoria. The "catch-up" is because the schedule from Victoria is via Underground to Tottenham Hale for connection with the train to Broxbourne.

fbb owns up! His plan was to route the Mrs by service 11 bus from Victoria to Liverpool Street, stupidly forgetting the Victoria line. One very bad house point, self awarded. The rail company journey planner advice was much, much better.

So it's even-stevens for journey time. Then you investigate fares. Southwest Trains £31.95 ...
... Southern Railway £20.20! That's a saving of £11.75.

Are today's rail fares daft or are they really daft? How many "normal" people would have guessed that the "long way round" would take almost exactly the same time as the "direct" route, yet would be 30% cheaper? How many people have the time and patience to tip-tap on the laptop for an hour or so to sort it out.

AND : The Southern Railway discount is only available on-line. Fair trading, NOT.

Mrs fbb's only comment about the Southern Railway journey was that the trolley-dolly rushed through the coach in an apparent attempt to avoid selling anything. Fortunately the Mrs had brought her ever-useful lasso and was able to haul the non-sales sales person back. The coffee was expensive and vile, served with only one tiny pottle of milk.

a no longer extant service from Broxbourne

But the journey was smooth and faultless. Once at Broxbourne it would have been nice to catch a bus to Hoddesdon; there is an hourly service 392 ...
... but the service 323 only runs at Monday to Friday peak times.
Likewise the other routes on the Hertfordshire map (323A and 341) only have the occasional peak hour trip to / from Broxbourne Station. The SB1 (Sainsburys Bus 1?) runs on Wednesdays only.
So it could have been a luggage encumbered lumber to the end of Station Road for a 310.
This service runs every 12 minutes ...
... and would deposit Mrs fbb at Hoddesdon clock tower.
But whatever route Mrs fbb had chosen it would have involved lengthy walk up Lord Street ...
... to the Conference Centre. So it was a taxi; no meter, just a standard "flat fare" of £6. Mrs fbb had one travelling companion and collected another stray at the station, so £2 each was "as cheap as chips", and porbably not much more than the bus fare.

And the oft-maligned railway system did just what is should do, namely convey its passengers efficiently and cost-effectively.

Three cheers, then, for the rail system, three boos for the silly fares situation and a really loud and reverberating raspberry for disgusting coffee at a disgusting price.

Incidentally, both Mrs fbb and her chum travelled all the way from the Isle of Wight to Hoddeson and back (including the passenger ferry) for under £60, somewhat less than the cost of a ticket for the car on the ferry. So no car running costs, no depreciation to add in, no super-stress driving very slowly round the M25. A blissful bargain.

Next blog : due Tuesday November 15th


  1. "The Southern Railway discount is only available on-line. Fair trading, NOT."

    Selling online offers the prospect of considerable savings for the seller, so it is surely only fair that they pass on the benefit of those savings to the customers who use that method? It is perhaps debatable whether buying online is more or less convenient than other methods - there are pros and cons to all approaches - but if the customer behaves in a manner that benefits the seller, then it is not unreasonable for that customer to benefit as well.

  2. Thank you RC169. BUT, what are these savings that the seller makes with on-line prices? I find it hard to believe that technology, postage and packing etc. offer a 30% saving over a man with a (similar) machine in a booking office, or (even less likely) a self service machine on the station.

    Railway finances are such a false construct with loadsamoney swirling around uncontrollably that I suspect that on-line savings could be offered at the ticket window with no significant "bottom line" effect.

    I also suspect that it is simply easier to market discounts on-line; too much trouble to get them into the over-engineered national fares system. Perhaps that's where the cost burden falls.

    Answer: make the whole system simpler. Then it WOULD be fair fares!

  3. Fbb, if the online system is fully automated, and the purchaser prints their own ticket (as is the case with the Deutsche Bahn system), then the train operator saves the cost of both man and office - and no postage or packing is required either. Obviously, due to the nature of public transport fares, the savings will be proportionately greater for shorter, lower value journeys.

    I'm not sure from your post what the non-online Southern Railway fare would have been, but 30% does seem quite significant. It would certainly be easier and cheaper for the operator to market the discounts online, compared to other methods; and it is in the interests of the operator to encourage passengers to use the online service, so it is perhaps not surprising that the discounts are disproportionately high.

    I agree that there is a lot of money swirling around in the railway system, but staff and offices are real things that have to be paid for, so I am sure that there is a genuine impact on the finances, even if it is not as great as the operators might want you to believe! It is also true that the saving would be less when compared to a self service machine at a station, but such machines are expensive to buy and install, and require maintenance - such as regular collections of the money paid (if they accept cash). If you use the online system from your own computer, then you are effectively allowing the train operator to use your computer as a self service machine for their tickets. So you could think of the discount as a contribution to the cost of your computer, which you then allow the train operator to use!

  4. RC169. The non on-line fare would be the same as Southwest Trains. Tickets from Portsmouth to London are valid direct, via Basingstoke and via Gatwick Airport.

  5. Right, so if it wasn't for the on-line discount, then the two fares for the two journeys that take the same amount of time would have been exactly the same.

    So what's all the fuss about this for, then?:
    "Are today's rail fares daft or are they really daft? How many "normal" people would have guessed that the "long way round" would take almost exactly the same time as the "direct" route, yet would be 30% cheaper?"

  6. Sorry to spoil this debate - but I don't think there is an on-line discount for using Southern rather than South-West Trains.

    The simple fact seems to be that off-peak fares from Portsmouth to Broxbourne are significantly cheaper using the Southern route. However, because the Southern timings from Portsmouth Harbour (xx12 arr xx22 & xx29 arr xx52) are always overtaken by South-Western timings (xx15 arr xx14 & xx45 arr xx52), the Southern ones are not shown on the National Rail Enquiries or other websites. However, if you select 'via East Croydon' on the NRES journey planner, all the options show a normal adult return fare of £30.60, rather than £48.40 via Waterloo. So presumably, if you presented yourself at the ticket office at Portsmouth Harbour and asked for a return to Broxbourne via East Croydon you would be charged £30.60.
    Speaking as a northerner, I'm not sure how long this differential has applied - perhaps exactly the same applied in British Rail days or even earlier ! Perhaps a Portsmothian (?) can advise ?

  7. I will pass this on to Barry Doe
    He's the man who'll surely know.
    I've lived on Wight for many years.
    This fact has never reached my ears!
    The railway fares are always weird ...
    But this is worse than ever feared.