"Railways cut down on cheap tickets"

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ChrisA

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Taken from The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1897280,00.html

"Railways cut down on cheap tickets to make most of season's greetings"

TRAIN companies are exploiting high demand for rail travel over the Christmas period by cutting their quotas of cheap tickets.

Anyone who has yet to book rail journeys for the Christmas holidays will struggle to find a cheap deal. The few tickets that were available have nearly all been snapped up after going on sale much earlier than in previous years.



Last year discount tickets for Christmas were put on sale as late as mid-December.

Thousands of passengers who are only now beginning to make travel plans will find they have to pay premium rates.

The Commons Transport Select Committee will question train companies today about their pricing policy at Christmas. Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich and the committee’s chairman, said: "We are concerned that there aren’t enough cheap tickets on sale. The restricted selling patterns mean that by the time the public knows about it, it will be too late."

The companies advertise their cheapest fares but fail to mention that they are often unavailable.

GNER promotes a £9.50 single fare between London and York, but the cheapest ticket on sale yesterday on either December 23 or 24 was £26.50. Even this was available only on trains leaving before 8.30am. After 8.30am the price rose to a minimum of £39.50.

Virgin CrossCountry advertises a £25 single fare from Glasgow to Plymouth, but the cheapest single fare available for December 23 or 24 was £114, except for one train on December 24 that had seats at £42.50.

An analysis by Barry Doe, the fares consultant, commissioned by The Times, found that no discount tickets were available on five key Virgin CrossCountry routes on either December 22 or 23. Some cheap tickets were on offer for December 24, but only if passengers knew how to find them. Train ticket websites frequently fail to list the cheapest tickets because they only search for the quickest journey.

The Rail Passengers Council accused the companies of using the excuse of confidentiality to conceal profiteering. Anthony Smith, the council’s chief executive, said: "With huge sums of public money going into the railways, train companies must demonstrate how they offer value for money."

The Government fixes the price of "saver" tickets but train companies have reduced the number of trains on which they are available. The afternoon "peak" on GNER, when savers are not valid, now stretches from 2.59pm to 6.59pm.

A GNER spokesman said: "We are not out to be Scrooges. We are no different to the airlines in responding to the laws of supply and demand."

He said it was possible that more batches of cheap tickets would be released closer to Christmas.

Virgin Trains said: "There is no point in selling as many cheaper tickets on trains where we know there will be high demand. It just contributes to overcrowding."

First Great Western admitted it had reduced its quota of cheap tickets but refused to say by how much "because, as well as being commercially confidential, it’s not useful information for passengers".

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union called for a return of the cheap family tickets which allowed children to travel with parents for £2 return. Bob Crow, the union’s general secretary, said: "When families are struggling to find money for presents, it is unacceptable that, travelling between Newcastle and Bristol on December 21 and returning a week later, it can cost two children and two adults £172."

BOOKING TIPS




If no cheap tickets are available from your starting station, try booking from a station further up the line. On several trains on December 23, the cheapest fare between London and Newcastle is £100. However, from Peterborough to Newcastle the cheapest fare on the same services is £9.50. When this is combined with a £21.50 cheap day single from London to Peterborough, the passenger pays only £31

Do not assume that train company call centres will quote the cheapest fares. They often fail to tell you about cheaper services run by rivals between the same stations. For services from London to the West Country, try South West Trains from Waterloo instead of First Great Western from Paddington

Try booking tickets via Birmingham rather than London. Train websites always search for the fastest journey and may ignore much cheaper tickets on services which take a little longer. On December 24, the cheapest fare on most services from Bournemouth to Newcastle, via London, is £114.80. Travelling via Birmingham, the cheapest is £17.50


Post edited so the URL works - COXSTER
 
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Tomnick

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Don't the basic principles of economics tell us that, as demand increases, the price will increase to achieve 'equilibrium'? Maybe that's not too applicable to this situation, but it doesn't take much to see that there's a lot more demand at this time of year, but the same limited supply - trains are busy enough around Christmas without encouraging even more travel on cheap tickets!
 

yorkie

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Are they complaining that the fares went on sale earlier this year?!

A major problem when booking advance fares is that you don't know (without having to work it out) why there are no cheap tickets - are they not on sale yet? or are the sold out?

I can't understand why GNER sells so many cheap tickets on the first train that allows Savers (0700 EDB-KGX), as this train is packed into London quite often in my experience. Yet the 0550 from Edinburgh has a number of spare seats. I know it's not easy to estimate demand but common sense suggests the first train to allow Savers is going to be a bit busy.
 
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