New SWR "Semi Flex Return" fares

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by Joe Paxton, 12 Jan 2020.

  1. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    SWR are introducing new "Semi Flex Return" fares where the outward journey is only valid on the booked train(s), and the return journey is valid during Super Off-Peak times.

    It seems they are only available for journeys either to or from London Waterloo. I think they might only be available for travel from 14 January onwards (i.e. this coming Tuesday).

    They need to be booked by 23:59 the day beforehand. Unlike Advance tickets, a Network Railcard does offer a discount on these fares. They only come in Standard class flavour, not First class (at least not yet).

    As an example, they are listed on BR Fares here for a Bournemouth to Waterloo journey - scroll down to the "Advance Purchase Fares – Standard Class" heading:
    www.brfares.com/#!fares?orig=BMH&dest=WAT


    They have the ticket codes XE1 to XE9. The restriction code is UE. The more expensive tiers appear to have some availability (for outward travel) during the morning shoulder peak.

    The cheaper tiers also cost less than a walk-up single ticket, however to take advantage of this - i.e. using the flexible return leg only - one would have to plan ahead and find and book a journey with a cheap outward leg (which you’d then discard).

    The only mention I can find of these new Semi Flex tickets in any reporting is in this Telegraph article dated 2 January, which features a comment from an unnamed SWR spokesperson in which they also mention a "Weekender" ticket, but I can’t see any sign of that existing yet. (Southeastern have long offered Weekender tickets which are priced at either the same or a little more than the Off-Peak Day Return.)
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2020
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  3. yorkie

    yorkie Forum Staff Staff Member Administrator

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    This is good news for people who have any more flexibility and lower fares.

    Some operators already have fares of this nature, while some allow people to mix and match walk up and Advance fares for each portion of a return journey.

    But it's good to see this option being offered to a wider range of passengers.

    Some people won't like it as they will see a wider range of fares being offered as not being "simple" enough for them ;)
     
  4. Starmill

    Starmill Veteran Member Associate Staff Events Co-ordinator

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    Personally I would have preferred Super Off Peak Half tickets to this implementation, because it is a little confusing.

    However this does have the advantage that this might often come out cheaper for consumers than an Anytime Day Single one way and a single set at half of the price of a Super Off Peak Day Return the other. Presumably it has the advantage to the company of being SWR only, and not going through the revenue share.
     
  5. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    Given your signature, one might be forgiven for thinking that could include your good self!

    I agree that I think it's good news - and yes, it has similarities to the special Off-Peak Single fares that are offered in conjunction with an Advance for a round-trip by Avanti (nee Virgin) and LNER.
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2020
  6. Tom

    Tom Member

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    There is a backdrop on this in that they've also withdrawn Off Peak Day Return tickets from a lot of stations in which this fare is available... and also withdrawn the SOR and replaced with their Anytime Open Return.
     
  7. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    I don't think so - as far as I can see, the return portion of the Semi Flex ticket is the same as the return portion of a regular Super Off-Peak Return ticket. So for example, with a return leg of a Bournemouth-London ticket you could travel on GWR from Paddington to Reading and XC from Reading to Bournemouth.
     
  8. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    The SOR being the ?
     
  9. Starmill

    Starmill Veteran Member Associate Staff Events Co-ordinator

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    When I go online to book one, I'm told that the ticket is 'SW Railway Only'.
     
  10. alistairlees

    alistairlees Established Member

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    Indeed. They are route code 00442 "South Western Railway only" (same as their Advance tickets)
     
  11. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    OK. I had thought that maybe things might have been a bit muddled by the fact that the outward (booked) leg would obviously be SWR only, but given the point that Starmill made earlier - that it's obviously beneficial for SWR if they don't have to revenue share via ORCATS - then it seems the flexible return leg will be SWR-only too. I guess given the nature of SWR's network then for most journeys staying on SWR trains is the 'obvious' choice.
     
  12. daveshah

    daveshah Member

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    Rather wonderful coincidence of a route code!
     
  13. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I assume these are "temporary fares"?
     
  14. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    Why?

    I don't.
     
  15. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    In my understanding you're not allowed to have any fare concept that isnt the straightforward Anytime, (Super) Off Peak and Advance Single as permanent single/return fares? Or has that changed, in which case "simplification" was an utter and disgraceful sham?

    (Can you see I'm not in favour?)
     
  16. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    I think your understanding is wrong. The special online-only Off-Peak Single fares, sold in conjunction with an Advance to form a round trip by Avanti and LNER, don't fall into the 'simplification' bracket you describe above. Nor do Southeastern's Weekender tickets, which have been around for years. I imagine there are other examples. (And then there's Megatrain and MegabusPlus!)
     
  17. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    In any case I think it is a terrible idea, adding yet more complexity to the fares system when the trend is towards single leg pricing which would be a genuine simplification. With everything as singles if you want that you simply choose an Advance Single outward and a suitable flexible single back.

    It's also clearly a fares grab - evidently someone found a way to get away with the lead fare setter having TOC specific flexible fares, which shows that SWR/FG are not to be trusted.
     
  18. Starmill

    Starmill Veteran Member Associate Staff Events Co-ordinator

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    I do not think they're temporary.
     
  19. Starmill

    Starmill Veteran Member Associate Staff Events Co-ordinator

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    This is an effect it creates, I'm in no doubt. But the allocation CrossCountry will receive for Bournemouth to London tickets for example, while unlikely to be zero, will be quite thin. You only save a few minutes at certain times of day by using CrossCountry, and you always must change at least once, while SWR provide direct services.

    I suspect that it has much more to do with SWR wanting to control yield a bit better, which is a route to bigger revenue increases.

    I have also heard that there have been regulatory compliance questions asked about these fares. DfT aren't effective at enforcing the relatively weak regulatory regime that exists already.
     
  20. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    Interesting.

    The episode I remember that illustrated this well, but which I am struggling to find a reference to (it didn't make waves in the way I thought it should have), was when FGW (as was) managed to raise some regulated fares - possibly seasons - by too much, and it was only discovered almost by accident by a watchdog - I think it was London Travelwatch.

    The showed to me that the DfT essentially took the word of the operators that they were in compliance with fares regulation, although I think it was cock-up rather than conspiracy on FGW's part - however they were evidently somewhat lax in their processes to allow that to happen. I do wonder if similar happened elsewhere over the years and just hasn't been spotted.
     
  21. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Other TOCs have got away with breaches of the TSA (Ticketing Settlement Agreement, I think) before for varying periods of time. Virgin Trains, for instance, applied evening peak restrictions northbound from Milton Keynes Central, and had to remove them when they were caught.
     
  22. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    I suppose one could say that this is far from the only field of life in which rules and regulations are breached.
     
  23. Starmill

    Starmill Veteran Member Associate Staff Events Co-ordinator

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    Precisely. I expect that there are other technical breaches of the license conditions out there...

    Whether anyone relevant notices them, and if they decide to do anything about it, is another matter.
     
  24. [.n]

    [.n] Member

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    So this is actually another fare increase for those of us who live further away from London than Bournemouth. its now no longer possible to turn up and buy a cheap day return to London on the day - what a rip-off. The sooner SWR lose their franchise the better, it really is becoming harder and harder not to look back at the Stagecoach era without rose-tinted glasses making it all wonderful (which I know it wasn't, but things have gone backwards so much with SWR)
     
  25. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Give them the message by splitting and avoiding this silliness, then... :D

    Now Trainline does splits, everyone else will as well if it makes it cheaper.
     
  26. JonathanH

    JonathanH Established Member

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    Given the relative position of the "Super off-peak day return" and the "Off peak return", isn't it just the case that they have increased the price of the 'cheap day return' (sic) to the price of the 'off peak return'?

    Wareham to London Terminals SOD £62.40, SVR £69.40.

    I assume that the off-peak day return sat somewhere in between.

    The furthest out from London you can buy an off-peak day return to London is Basingstoke - Petersfield on the Portsmouth line. Anywhere further south or west has had them removed.
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2020
  27. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    From stations further away you can still buy a Super Off-Peak Day Return to London, just not an Off-Peak Day Return.
     
  28. Tom

    Tom Member

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    SWR appear to have withdrawn it on the basis that they were close in price to the Off Peak Return and it 'simplifies the offer', which I guess is reasonable. However, they didn't bother to cap the fare rise to the Off Peak Return or peg it at 2019 levels so for some flows the price rise is around 5% I believe. For my personal journeys its a rise of 4.6% compared to 2019 prices. SWR claimed internally that 87% of journeys will see a real terms increase of less than 50p, but this of course all adds up. Either way, for most flows this is a beyond inflation fare rise in the 'aim of simplification' but given SWRs previous actions with significantly reduced AP availability it's just a backdoor price increase, really. However... the super off peak day return is not really a good alternative ticket as it is no good for shoulder peak journeys.

    In SWT days the SVR restrictions were relaxed to be aligned with the CDR but it wouldn't surprise me if SWR now tighten those up as well. I seem to recall this was not too long after the super off peak was introduced (which ISTR took the then CDR price and they increased CDRs by 20%).

    For departures to London from Bournemouth, you now have the perverse situation that the cheapest ticket between 0734 and 0959 is a period Off Peak Return. If you depart at or after 0734 and want to return in the evening peak, you also need an Off Peak Return. Strange move that sort of implies the CDR was too high to begin with.

    Oh, and of course they've only withdrawn the CDR to the London fare zones... anywhere outside is unchanged - so you can still get a CDR to Esher and the like routed via London - even if the journey logically takes longer!
     
  29. AnkleBoots

    AnkleBoots Member

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    It depends if you want Waterloo or Paddington
     
  30. TEW

    TEW Established Member

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    The Weekender tickets are a trial only at present, between Guildford and London Terminals.
     
  31. paddington

    paddington Member

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    Looks like you can't break journey on the outbound but you can on the return.
     

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