Return 10p more than a single...why?

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by Minilad, 1 Jun 2019.

  1. Minilad

    Minilad Established Member

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    I'm sure this has been answered but a search produced nothing. My daughter has just asked why a return is only 10p more than a single and I cannot give an answer other than it's always been so. Any ideas why it would be the case?
     
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  3. bb21

    bb21 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    All derived from the fact that Cheap Day/Saver fares originally existed as some sort of special offer products for return journeys. The standard (Ordinary?) singles/returns had a bigger differential.

    To avoid undermining the pricing structure and avoid the fairly ridiculous situation where single costs more than return, singles were also introduced at a marginally lower cost, although that phenomenon existed to date on some flows even though ATOC/RDG went on a cleansing exercise a few years ago to rid the system of such "anomalies".
     
  4. Minilad

    Minilad Established Member

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    I always assumed it was something to do with some sort of offer that has ended up sticking. Thanks for the explanation but I'm sure my daughter, as would most of the public at large, will still think it's daft!
     
  5. E100

    E100 Member

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    I agree completely as it's illogical on many levels. The only thing I can think of is that if you pay for a train to go from A to B. The train must also go back from B to A at cost. By having the single cover effectively the full fare you ensure that this journey is effectively paid for, however this doesn't really apply on many other forms of transport where that is also the case. A new thread topic if anyone is more interested in this would be: Are there many directional passenger flows. E.g. large flow in one direction only?
     
  6. E100

    E100 Member

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    Thanks for the reply. Makes much more sense!
     
  7. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Someone who would require a return ticket may have the option of choosing to drive instead. Or they may choose not to travel altogether.

    Someone who would require a single ticket is likely to need to make the journey; they probably have to be somewhere. Many people who make single journeys may not have any other viable choice of transport.

    In other words, train companies have to price return fares aggressively or they will lose customers who otherwise will not travel (by train).

    There are some journeys where a return is cheaper than a single. In some cases you need to buy a return for the 'wrong' direction to get the cheaper price e.g. a passenger wanting a single from York to Peterborough today will be paying an absolute fortune unless they purchase a return from Peterborough to York (and discard the outward portion).

    See also:
    https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/why-do-singles-cost-the-same-as-returns.82616/
    https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/return-tickets-cheaper-than-singles.96463/
     
    Last edited: 1 Jun 2019
  8. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    but airlines have stopped all that. They just sell singles. or 2 singles, one each way. Your argument would hold for them.
    I reckon a return should be a bit above 150% of the single. anything else just make the railway look daft.
    But rail fares are a complete hogsnorton anyway.
     
  9. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Your statement above is incorrect.

    Most major full service airlines still price long distance flights as return flights which takes into account loadings, demand as well as the length and time of your stay.

    It can still be cheaper, on some routes, to buy a return than a single, on some airlines.

    My last bus journey was a single, but I bought a return, as it was cheaper. This was the same situation as the train I had used to catch the bus.

    So it's not unique to railways that a single should be similarly priced (sometimes even more) than a return.
    If you wish to make a proposal for a new fares structure, feel free to create a new thread. But good luck finding a model that is acceptable to all stakeholders!
     
    Last edited: 1 Jun 2019
  10. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Airline tickets are usually valid on a specific flight only, though. In that respect, they're more similar to rail Advance tickets, where (again) you but two singles to make a return journey.
     
  11. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    It's also to do with making sure that commuters couldn't purchase a combination of tickets to make their journeys cheaper.

    Say an Anytime Return to London cost £24
    An Anytime Single is £12
    An Off Peak Day Return is £15

    If the Off Peak Day Single was £7.50 then canny commuters would purchase an Anytime Single for their morning commute and an Off Peak Day Single at £7.50 and make a saving, especially in the days when there was no minimum fare with a Network Railcard. Remember that until relatively recently there were very few evening restrictions from London within the old Network South East area.

    To prevent this from happening the Off Peak Day Single was priced at 10p less than the return.
     
  12. paddington

    paddington Member

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    Not necessarily, airline tickets are just compulsory reservation. You can pay more for flexible tickets. The reason "traditional" airlines have expensive one-ways is that singles are often only flexible whereas the majority of leisure travellers will buy inflexible tickets which only come as returns.
     
  13. LNW-GW Joint

    LNW-GW Joint Veteran Member

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    As it hasn't been mentioned already, the "10p cheaper" single fare was invented by BR, not the big bad private operators.
    DfT says it wants to bring in single leg pricing, but so far has not made any meaningful changes, because of the impact on TOC revenues.

    Airlines play it both ways, depending on the competition.
    eg You can get cheap singles on KLM and Air France flights to Amsterdam and Paris respectively, but try and book a flight with these airlines to, say, Rome or Madrid and you will pay much more than the LCC carriers for the single fare, while the return fare will be more competitive and cheaper than the single fare.
    Delta, and probably other airlines, also has a rule that you must use all the issued flight coupons, in the right order, or they will be back to recover the full fare for the itinerary flown.
    So it will cost you to throw away that return ticket which got you the cheap return fare.
    Ferry companies do that as well, so you can't use a cheap day/weekend return if you only use a single leg.
    I'm sure the railway would do this if they had everybody's credit/debit card and email address as is compulsory for air/ferry journeys.
    I suppose Eurostar could do that, but I've no idea if it does.
     
  14. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Wouldn't "compulsory reservation" equate to "valid on a specific flight", with varying rules on rebooking?

    Admittedly, my recent experience of air travel is limited to one long-haul company, who only offer single fares, with the price varying according to the space available on the flight, and what tier of flexibility/perks you want. But their idea of flexibility was the ability to cancel or rebook onto another flight with notice, much like rail Advance tickets in my eye.
     
  15. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    Another "benefit" of having single fares more or less the same price as a return, is that it reduces the appeal of attempting to dodge a fare on one leg. If you're gambling that there'll be no ticket check (or barriers will be open) when you come home late at night, then you could save all of 10p(!) by buying a single instead, but risk paying nearly double the fare if you're asked for a ticket on the way back.
     
  16. infobleep

    infobleep Established Member

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    The problem with single leg pricing is if you stay overnight somewhere, your journey is rather more expensive than if you do it in one day. This occurs on local journeys where no period return exists.

    Here is another example, which I think highlights the issue. Let's say someone wants to travel from Guildford to Farnham on a Sunday and return back to Guildford on the last connecting train. The last set of trains is the 23:30 to Woking, where you change for a train to Guildford. The 23:00 also requires you to change at Woking.

    Trains from Guildford to Farnham are not valid via Woking. Trains from Woking to Farnham are valid via Guildford.

    So one would have to buy a return from Woking to Farnham and then a single from Woking to Guildford.

    If Guildford to Farnham was valid via Woking then the costs would be much less as returns are priced not much more than singles.

    Of course if someone didn't know Woking to Farnham was valid via Guildford, they might purchase Guildford to Farnham, Farnham to Woking and Woking to Guildford, all as singles, which would be even more expensive.
     
    Last edited: 3 Jun 2019
  17. Wolfie

    Wolfie Established Member

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    Low cost airlines may have done so. BA for example though certainly don't charge a return as the sum of two single fares. The return is cheaper (often much!). Oh, and Eurostar is similar...
     
  18. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    Sorry. I usually fly squeezy-jet and they charge per journey leg. Haven't flown BA for years.
     
  19. causton

    causton Established Member

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    This was what I was going to say.

    Let's say you only get checked in one direction, well you'll be paying £12 instead of £12.10 so you might as well pay the 10p more!

    To the contrary, some people at excess fare windows try to pay as little as possible so ask for a single from X. Then when they come back and the barriers are still in operation, they have to buy another single and pay double! (Some are not very smart)
     
  20. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    I was at Sleaford at the weekend, and the local taxi office was advertising "Why pay £8.50 each single on the train to Lincoln when 4 of you can get a taxi from us for £30?".....Ignoring that the return fare is a whopping £1 more at £9.50 (never mind Groupsave discounts, etc....)
     
  21. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    I think I would be correct in saying that in such cases (which is lots and lots of course) such a return fare at 10p more is actually a discounted fare. The "real" full price return fare is (usually) twice the Anytime single fare - ie any fare apart from Anytime Singles and Returns are discounted priced tickets.

    It's just hat the now widespread use of Advance, inflexible, and more heavily discounted, tickets blinds many people to the idea that all the other tickets at cheaper prices than 'Anytime' are discounted tickets too.

    Obv it will now be pointed out to me that on a large number of flows the above 'rule' - does not apply, but I hope the gist of it is correct!
     
  22. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Of course the existing scenario of 10p higher rtn ticket costs is enshrined in legislation from end of BR days and the privatized fragmented industry would surely never have created such a scenario, esp over cross TOC boundary travel, had they been permitted to do so, or to end it etc etc. IMHO what they would have created would be worse of course, so the OPs daughter (and many others) perhaps ought to be careful what they wish for.....tho the recent ATOC report on the matter does seek to address the issue.
     
  23. infobleep

    infobleep Established Member

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    I think I misread your point slightly. A lot of the tickets I see as singles are not discounted. I take your point that returns other than anytime returns are discounted, although as you say people don't think of them as being discounted as such.

    Some of course would argue that they are not discounted but the other fares are overpriced. I guess it depends on which fare as some may be overpriced, whilst others maybe a fare price or under priced.
     
  24. Alteran Ancient

    Alteran Ancient Member

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    I occasionally make the journey from London down to Uckfield, and something that a few of the regulars have figured out is that you can get an Off-Peak single for £17.80 (or return for £19.70), whilst if you do the reverse journey, you're able to get a Super Off-peak for £12.30 single or £12.40 return. As I have a Railcard, the prices drop to about £11.75 from London (£13 return), and £8.10 from Uckfield (£8.20 return).

    So if you're just doing a one-way trip from Victoria to Uckfield like I do, you can pay £8.20 for the return from Uckfield and just use the return portion of the ticket. It seems totally daft that I can pay either £11.75 or £8.20 to board the same train in one direction. And this is probably why we need an overhaul of the ticketing system - you have all these hidden fares that your average member of the public won't be able to take advantage of. You shouldn't need to game to system in order to get the cheapest fare for your journey.
     
  25. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    What do you think will happen if the fares structure is simplified?

    The Super Off Peak ticket from Uckfield to Victoria is likely to be withdrawn to simplify things. I doubt that you’ll see a Victoria to Uckfield Super Off Peak ticket introduced.

    Be careful what you wish for...
     
  26. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Interesting example. Tho I wonder how often people only do need to do a 1 way journey? For example, in your case, how do you get back - is it that you would get a lift by car for example, if that fits your journey pattern?

    The cases I recall in that example would be when I was a student and although I needed to go both ways, some holiday periods were over a month so the rtn portion of the ticket would no longer be valid, even if it had only cost 10p more to buy.
     
  27. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Thanks

    ref your two points, yes, is that because on those flows there is not an 'off peak' single offered?

    re prices being 'overpriced' this is a totally different issue - as indeed it is with any product - because it brings in anyone's personal assessment of 'value' - which you tend to benchmark with other options, eg if you have a car, what you think it would cost to drive, is your car more comfy, quiet, flexible, easier to put luggage in etc etc or even how you compare prices of a train ticket with some other purchase (eg a night out in the pub, or a restaurant meal or whatever) - and it also, I am sure, relates to your income and views on what as a percentage of that travel takes up. A whole different subject in a way!
     
  28. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    If the fares structure was simplified, it would undoubtedly be the case that some fares which currently represent bargains would have to increase or disappear entirely. But if the restructuring was done on a revenue neutral basis, there would be other fares which would be reduced.

    The current structure is full of anomalies and oddities of which buying a return for a single journey to save £3.55 is one of the least ridiculous. Looking for fares from A the other day, I found that the return to B was £143.90, but a return from A to C, routed via B was £58.70. Similarly, where an annual season from A to X is £4,112.00, one from A to Z, routed via X and Y is just £1,492.00. In each case, the ticketed destinations of the cheaper options were so far removed from their required destinations, the average customer would not think to ask or look for them, let alone imagine they may be cheaper. And that's just for A.

    Those "in the know", who can take advantage of these anomalies, obviously have a vested interest in the current system staying exactly as it is, so it's not surprising they issue dire warnings should any kind of simplification be mooted.
     
  29. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Points well made - of course 'revenue neutral' for the industry does not mean 'expenditure neutral' for the passenger, who may - to use this example - say - only ever travel London - Uckfield. But yes the reputation of the industry would be helped by any simplifciation that generally seemed 'fair' on the paying passenger.
     
  30. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    I'm long enough in the tooth to be extremely wary when the train operators claim they want to change things to make them "simpler". They also have have vested interests and even a change which is "revenue neutral" could offer them considerable advantages, coining the same revenue while reducing their costs.

    I also recognise that the winners and losers in any change, even if it's "revenue neutral", will be individual passengers and there could be cases of real hardship faced by some. Those cases would need to be addressed.

    What I do think is that the structure needs to be fairer and more transparent, rather than just simpler.
     
  31. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Technically a 'Discounted' fare is a fare that is reduced from the public rate, e.g. with a Railcard, PRIV, family & friends discounts and so on.
    It's all semantics and subjectivity.
    If the train companies were forced to avoid ever having a situation where a fare undercuts another fare, it would generally result in the cheaper fares rising or being abolished, with only very few exceptions.
    Would you apply this principle to air transport? If so, how? I'll create a new thread shortly and link to it here. Edit: here it is https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/plane-fares.183749/
    Absolutely.
    But not by as much; see https://www.railforums.co.uk/thread...eturns-to-increase.178399/page-6#post-3884808. In order to be "revenue neutral", if £350 Anytime Return fares are reduced to, say, £200, I know no-one who will personally benefit from that, yet there will be £millions of lost revenue which will need to be recouped by putting all the reasonably priced fares up by several pounds.

    Market based pricing is deployed in all modes of public transport in this country; it can be cheaper to make a return plane journey than make a single on some routes, and the last time I bought a bus ticket for a single journey I bought a return to reduce the price. It's not a railway thing.

    Market based pricing is good for TOCs and its good for consumers who are on a tight budget e.g. leisure passengers. The people who really disbenefit from market based pricing are businesses; so in effect the proposals to abolish market based pricing are proposals to transfer costs from businesses to consumers.
    The only way to abolish this is to move away from market based pricing (see above).
    It's not just knowledgeable people who will lose out if market based pricing is abolished, but anyone who makes short distance day returns at off peak times (e.g. Sheffield to Derby type journeys); there is no way those fares will remain good value in any new system. If you think you can make it work, please do create a thread with your proposals and we'll see if they are workable.
    Indeed, it will increase costs for most passengers; the aim is indeed to get positive reputation for being "fair"; As I said in the other thread:

    ...the examples being used by RDG in the media seem to focus on primarily reducing headline anytime prices in order to reduce the "sky high rail fares" headlines, thus making the move popular with the government, whilst actually increasing costs for people who are far more likely to be actually paying the ticket price themselves rather than on expenses.
    But any positivity generated by being "fair" and reducing headlines about £350 Anytime Returns between Manchester and London (which may "only" be £200 or so with a new system, so still out of most people's price range) will be far outweighed by negative publicity due to huge rises of the fares that many leisure passengers use.
     
    Last edited: 4 Jun 2019

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