A Short Rant About Train Fares
Posted on 2007/11/13 11:53:58 (November 2007).
[Thursday 8th November]
Made a Japanese curry for dinner, and then spent the remainder of the evening trying to plan the complex logistics for my week off. Basically the plan was just to go and spend the week in Wales, however it was complicated by the fact that we wanted to go by way of Bath on the way there, and that I wanted to go to both South and North Wales, and also that Chie could only really come along for the weekend at the start.
None of this would be that much of a problem if the train system in this country had a simple and consistent pricing structure. However, in reality it is fiendishly complicated, and had we just decided to buy tickets on the day for each of the journeys we'd be making we'd end up spending hundreds of pounds. This largely stems from the fact that singles - when bought on the day - are usually almost exactly the same price as a return - a system for which I have never understood the rationale. So in doing a set of journeys like we wanted to, we'd end up being severely stung.
Recently, possibly in response to this insanity, train companies have started offering cheap single tickets if you buy in advance, but with very limited availability on each train (and even more bizarre and unpredictable pricing structures). So planning a trip like this becomes a complex constraint satisfaction problem, and typically seems to lead to hours trawling through the pages of one of the train companies' websites, searching for the cheapest and most convenient way to make your journey.
It's ridiculous really. The upshot is that, I suspect, if you pick a random group of people on a train, the amount they have paid for exactly the same service will vary massively - it is quite concievable some people will have paid four or five times as much as other people. Buy a single from Newport to London on the day and it'll set you back a wopping 50 quid (for less than two hours on a train) off peak - even more if you want to go before 9. However, book a few days in advance and you can find fares for as little as 15 quid - and you'll get a reserved seat.
So it seems you're penalised for not booking in advance - but like everything else in train pricing structures, I really don't get the rationale for this. Apparently our railways are already at capacity, so I can't really believe they're going to lay on extra services when demand is high, and equally you can't exactly cancel a train on the day because there will always be people who need to travel at short notice. So how does advance knowledge about capacity actually help the train companies? I certainly can't figure it out. It wouldn't seem so mad if the incentive was only small - say 5 or 10% off - but to make the ticket 1/3rd of the standard price seems crazy.
The whole thing strikes me as very, very broken - and I think they ought to throw away the whole system and start all over again.
hear hear on the train issue John...
I still gasp in wonder when I used to get the train from Hashimoto in Kanagawa to Tokyo for 430 yen..
and it was on time... and it was clean.. ho hum!
Buses are no better.. my little ladytried to catch her usual 07:45 bus to college on Monday morning.. It never showed!.. she returned home to make a couple of of business calls and then ventured out for the next bus... when that also didn't arrive, she started to walk home again, only to see the now 20 minutes late Bus coming down the hill.. Poor girl had to "leg it" at full tilt to try to catch it..
If I could afford it, I'd buy her a little motor and say a hearty "Bo**ox!" to UK public transport
Posted by Jerry at 2007/11/13 23:53:33.
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