Tuesday 7 February 2017

And Now, The News Headlines (2)

Cheaper Rail Fares?
Last week the media was, briefly, full of this story. The implication of some of the reports was that rail travel would become cheaper.

Everyone knows that rail fares are complicated, confusing and, according to some, so expensive that "ordinary" people cannot afford them. This does not accord with the fact the rail passenger numbers are growing all the time. 

fbb will bet a month's pension that no actual rail fares will change as a result of this new scheme.

Here are selected snippets from the Rail News web site, usually reasonably well informed.

A series of reforms affecting fares for longer-distance rail travel has revealed an official alternative to the long-established practice of 'ticket-splitting' for the first time.

When fbb looked at "ticket splitting" sites some time ago he found that they were often misleading, advising users to buy single "split" tickets at a dearer price than the off-peak return and, by using "Advance" ticket prices, making journeys more risky. If you fail to travel on your "Advance" compulsory train, you must pay the "normal" fare for the journey and lose your "Advance" money.

This is a "rip off". You "lost" fare should be acceptable as part payment for the altered trip. There is nothing to suggest this will change. 

The Rail Delivery Group has announced that a best value end-to-end ‘through fare’ will be offered for journeys where changes of train are involved, offering one price combining the cheapest fare for each leg of the journey.

O.K. But what about "split" tickets where there is no change?
The uneven tariffs on National Rail sometimes mean that a journey from A to C will be more expensive if booked through, but cheaper if separate tickets are used from A to B, and then B to C. Passengers may use the same train for the whole journey, but if they do the train must call at B en route.

The Rail Delivery Group has described the changes as 'radical'.


They will only apply between London and Sheffield or Scotland at first, although passengers will still be free to arrange their own ticket-split on any route.

Now we understand. All that is happening is that the confuser systems that SELL tickets are going to be tweaked to reveal "split ticket" prices, rather than leaving the passengers to sort it out for themselves. It is highly likely that the risks involved will still remain.

Rail ticket SELLING is to be overhauled so passengers could (should?) always find the cheapest fares. fbb hopes that the restrictions on "the cheapest" fares will be clearly explained on these "radical" new deals.

Don't hold your breath!

And don't believe the press.

Each single journey appears to have required a total of 7 tickets; that's 14 for the return. The article mentions "reservations" so it is likely that the footy fan was using train-specific "Advance" tickets. Of course these are not always available and often only sold for limited numbers of seats; so the savings are not guaranteed.

The article gave no detail which makes fbb suspicious. The cynical old man wonders if the £56 saving was in comparison with the "Peak Anytime" fare rather than a more usual "Off Peak" formerly a Saver.

fbb took a look at several "Split Ticket" sites and enquired for a journey from Oxford to Newcastle on Saturday 11th February for an afternoon kick-off and compared them with "normal" off peak return prices..

National Rail web site
143.00  one through ticket NO RESTRICTIONS
136.60  two Advance singles but NOT available for the chosen trains

Split ticket web sites HEAVY RESTRICTIONS
Most using the same search engine and front end 
129.80  for the chosen journey
141.30  for different times

Specifically TrainSplit site
154.90  for the chosen journey

Money Saving Expert (does SINGLES only)
164.40  for the chosen journeys
Split Train Times site (not the standard search engine?)
287.00  for the chosen journey

Confused? Of course you are. Which answer will the "radical" new site offer?

More Family Silver Sold?
Trenitalia is the name of the Italian State Railways. The company runs some flashy high speed trains ...
... and used to have a selection of "cab forward" steam locos.
They towed a water "tender" and kept the coal in bunkers in the cab. They even tried streamlining them ...
... evoking memories of the UK's Southern Railway "Leader" Class steam engines.
But Trenitalia now has a new train st to play with. It has bought the franchise for c2c from National Express. Apparently this is permitted because Trenitalia had pre-qualified to bid for UK rail franchises.

c2c was formerly LTS Rail franchised to Giles Fearnley's Prism Rail Group which was bought by National Express in 2000. 
Significantly this marks the final goodbye from National Express to the last of its once substantial batch of rail businesses.

Thamesdown Purchase Confirmed.
The council have approved the sale of Thamesdown ...
... to the GoAhead group. This item appeared on one of the on-line forums.

Thamesdown Transport has now been sold to Go Ahead Group and put under the control of Go South Coast. It has been making a loss and a loss of £2 million was anticipated for the current year, The consideration was £7.2 million plus £4 million for the garage site.

The council will receive little money themselves from the £7.2 million after payment of pension liabilities and other items.

All the large groups were approached and the Go Ahead bid was considered best. A bid from Stagecoach would probably have been the most financially advantageous but the MMC would start investigations and take ages to approve. That then leaves just 10 council controlled companies. Who will be next? 

£2 million loss? What drastic changes will enable Go South Coast to turn this round and make the operation profitable?

More news snippets tomorrow.

 Next bus/rail blog : Wednesday 8th February 


  1. Andrew Kleissner7 February 2017 at 07:24

    Some thoughts on split ticketing.

    1. The booking clerks at our local station (Ipswich) have said to me more than once that its cheaper to get returns from Ipswich to Manningtree and from there to London,than from Ipswich to London. This is always true if buying "cheap day returns" for two people at weekends. Why? Because Manningtree is the border station of the old Network Southeast area and a different fares structure (including weekend "Duo" tickets) applies from there. There are just a couple of weekday trains on which this can't be done, as they don't stop at Manningtree.

    2. My son had to make a (single) journey from Ipswich to Birmingham. By splitting the ticket at various notional exchange points, a much cheaper fare was obtained - I think we ended up splitting at Stamford or Melton Mowbray. There was no danger of missing the "connection" as this was on the same train!

    3. I think you could make a legal argument for "losing" your fare if you've split your ticketing and then miss a connection, as your contract for carriage is for each individual journey - one section has no bearing on the rest. This would not be the case where yo have booked "through".

    4. Some years ago I had to travel from Ipswich to Manchester. I got a good price of £20 (not with splitting but just booking in the normal way). Out of interest I wanted to find out the price to London alone. Using the same company's website, and selecting the same train service, it was £26. So effectively I was being paid £6 to go from Liverpool Street to Piccadilly - bonkers!

    1. Normally, advance tickets don't allow you you to buy a cheaper ticket to a station beyond your destination, but of course as you have to change stations in London there is absolutely nothing to stop you buying the Manchester ticket and then throwing it away once you arrive in London.

  2. More twaddle! The figure of a £2m loss in respect of Thamesdown relates to the accumulated losses over the last 5 years. And even that may not all relate to trading.

    1. And a predicted loss this year of £179k, which frankly will have disappeared already with the removal of the director team at TT by GSC.
      In other articles the MD of GSC talks about no job losses then goes on to say 'some back office stuff' may be moved out and some jobs may be affected. Really? No maybe about it. The entire back office will be in Poole in a matter of months. GSC is a single back office in Poole operating everything else as depots. That's where the profit is going to come from, hence the promise not to cut service.

  3. Split tickets. I have found 4 different versions without using Advance purchase tickets.
    1) Splitting at "boundaries". Oxford to York Off peak return save £10 by splitting at Leamington Spa where everything stops.
    2) For longer day trips look for Day return fares. Taunton - Oxford only has Off Peak Returns, but split at Bristol and you get two Off Peak "Day" Returns that's much cheaper.
    3) Use Day Rangers - Taunton to Devon; use a return to Tiverton and a Devon Day Ranger.
    4) If you start before Off Peak validity, buy a full fare only to the first station that is after Off Peak starts and an Off Peak ticket from there.(remember you have to stop there on the way back, so not a tiny station)

  4. As to the who's next question, I think Warrington has great potential but seems to be stuck in the 'half hourly is fine' mindset with little investment over the last few years.

  5. There is no "risk" associated with split Advances. Railway policy is that if you miss the start of an Advance because a National Rail train was late, you are to be accommodated on a later train of the same TOC as if you held a through Advance ticket.

    1. If you have one ticket from Dore to Newcastle then you are covered.

      If you split Dore to Sheffield and Sheffield to Newcastle and you miss your Sheffield to Newcastle train due to whatever reason then its not valid on the next SHF to NCL train.

    2. Wrong. It is 100% valid on the next service in the same way as if a though ticket is held.

  6. There is no "risk" associated with split Advances. Railway policy is that if you miss the start of an Advance because a National Rail train was late, you are to be accommodated on a later train of the same TOC as if you held a through Advance ticket.

  7. Andrew Kleissner7 February 2017 at 12:02

    NR Ts&Cs state "If you are using an advance Ticket and you miss your booked train because a previous connecting train service was delayed, you will be able to travel on the next train service provided by the Train Company with whom you were booked without penalty". Fair enough; but I think a lawyer would argue that two separate contracts exists if you have split-ticketed, hence the late-arriving train is not technically a "connecting service" as it would be if you were travelling "through", but a separate and independent journey.

    In a sense it's a bit like having to pay a penalty because you decided to get out at an earlier station than the one shown on your ticket: Not only could it be argued that your contract is to travel between A and C (rather than A and B), but you will be specifically in breach of Ts&Cs if your ticket type allows no break of journey".

    1. The T&Cs seem clear enough to me: You can use an Advance ticket on the next available train if you are delayed by the late running of a connecting train. This applies whatever sort of ticket you hold for the "connecting" train. The "contract" is for the whole journey you are making, not just the bit covered by one of your tickets. I recently "split-ticketed a Lancaster to Harwich journey at London. The train from London was cancelled so I arrived an hour late. I applied for - and recieved a "delay repay" 100% refund for the entire journey from Lancaster, even though I held two separate tickets and only one train wasa delayed.

    2. Andrew Kleissner7 February 2017 at 18:43

      Well, if that principle is consistently applied, it's good news indeed!