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

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

  1. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    I don't have a proposal, but then neither do you.

    On the other hand, I would be happy to accept a fairer system, should one be proposed, even though that would mean fare increases for some.
     
  2. TUC

    TUC Established Member

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    I take the view that, as long as the fare is good, who cares if it’s illogical? I’d far rather have that than a ‘logical’ more expensive fare.
     
  3. Deerfold

    Deerfold Established Member

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    He doesn't - his point is that such a proposal that is fair to all is impossible (or near so).

    If you can come up with one that works in that way, I suspect no-one would be more pleased than Yorkie - but he's seen many suggestions that end up being very unfair on some.
     
  4. kieron

    kieron Established Member

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    For some people, it's 5 times a week. If you have fixed work times, but there's no train when you go to work and no bus when you go back home, what can you do?
     
  5. Jimini

    Jimini Member

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    Off topic (sorry but this thread made it pop back into my mind): whatever happened to five day “network away break” tickets? I used to use these all the time a few years ago. The question tenuously links back to the OP in terms of cheapest options available.
     
  6. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Weren't they the Network SouthEast equivalent of InterCity's Savers? I think they became Off Peak Returns?
     
  7. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    sorry - I don't follow your point here. In that example could / would you use a train at all?
     
  8. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    They were simplified.....

    I.e removed.
     
  9. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    If the train is better than the bus in one direction, but doesn't exist for the return journey, yes.

    To give a contrived example, say I lived in Bangor and was working a night shift in Rhyl, starting after midnight. The last eastbound train is at 21:00, but the buses are still running until 22:45. Taking the bus instead of the train means I get more time at home before heading out the door.

    Come the morning, there's a train back from Rhyl at 07:15. The buses will have started by then as well, but given the choice between 2+ hours on two or three buses, versus a direct train journey of forty minutes (after a night shift) I'd probably opt for the train.
     
  10. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    I go to work in mudchester
    Wife gets train to mudchester at tea time
    evening night out
    train home. wife gets single
     
  11. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I don't get it...
     
  12. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    trying to explain why people buy singles

    do we know how many singles are sold? Is it a significant market?
     
  13. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    I think Ken H is driving to Mudchester, and is thus able to give his wife a lift home after going to the movies (or whatever). Hence she only needs to buy a single ticket.
     
  14. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    There are many reasons of course; you could create a thread just for that!

    Now I understand the purpose of your post, I am assuming you drove into Manchester. It makes sense now! :)
    A breakdown of ticket sales by type is a bit of an industry secret. As Advance fares have been sold as singles for the past 11 years, we really need to narrow it down to walk-up fares to do any sort of analysis.

    And even then any analysis would be pretty useless without understanding what the return fare was and whether or not the single fare in question was purchased in conjunction with a single in the opposite direction.

    For example an analysis of singles of type SVH or SUU - which are codes for tickets that are not available singly - would yield very different results for those of types such as SVS or SSS, which have the same pubic facing names (Off Peak Single & Super Off Peak single, respectively) but are available singly.

    An analysis of ticket type SOS (Anytime Single) is particularly problematic; this particular type is typically half the cost of the corresponding return, but not always.

    And you'd also be wanting to treat the sales of SVS fares on many GWR flows, as well as flows priced by Hull Trains and Grand Central rather differently to those priced by TPE for example, as in the case of the first three there is a significant discount compared to a return, while the latter is typically a pound less than the return.

    So raw access to the data is only a small part of the problem; you'd need to fully understand the context of the sales, as well as how each fare is priced relative to other fares, to be able to reach any sort of meaningful conclusions!
     
  15. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Sorry - I get it now. Thanks. I was being daft and thinking of the example which was Uckfield to London - not really a bus one way option, but of course foolish of me not to think a bit harder!
     
  16. Ken H

    Ken H Established Member

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    well if singles are disincentivised, then there is maybe a large market to go at to drive up train travel???
     
    Last edited: 4 Jun 2019
  17. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    Singles are incentivised, via Advance tickets.

    Frankly I doubt the rail companies want to sell more stand-alone walk-up singles. As has been discussed on this thread, they're inefficient for the use of your stock (as the train has to come back even if the passenger doesn't) and unpredictable as they can be used on any train.
     
  18. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    I think that @yorkie is well aware that to give any meaningful consideration to a proposal for a revised fares structure, it would need to be fully worked-up to the stage of individual routings and restrictions and that nationwide fare levels could be applied to show that it was indeed "revenue neutral" and who the winners and losers might be. I don't think the average contributor to the forum has the time, resources or expertise to complete the amount of work involved in doing that.

    @yorkie's view, as I understand it, is that because nobody has produced such an alternative proposal, none is possible. He says that any alternative will still contain anomalies and oddities and is therefore just as bad as the status quo. In other words, that the current structure is optimal.

    Now, I agree that if the search is for the perfection of an objectively fair structure of fares, that search will fail. But that's not to say that there are no fairer systems possible. Surely there must be?

    We can discuss where the fair point of balance lies between a leisure fare and a business fare from point A to point B and never reach an objective conclusion. But what is objectively unfair about the present system is not that there are wildly different fares available for the same right to travel, but that some of those fares are only visible to those with the time, tools and skills available to find them.

    So, while I don't have a fully worked-up national rail fares structure to offer, what I do have is a suggestion as to how those who can propose such a thing should be asked to do it. The suggestion is that if any new fares structure is to be adopted, the current rules for selling national rail tickets is changed such that the customer is always offered the lowest fares valid for their journey preferences, even if those fares involve splits, undercuts, weird routeing or other loopholes. In short, the requirement would be that whatever fares are proposed, none are hidden.

    If the RDG is being genuine in suggesting that fares, routeing and other rules be revised to simplify and make them fairer, they should have no problem with such a requirement. Of course, if it were applied now, most fares would suddenly become cheaper, many significantly so, and none would increase, so on it's own it's not a workable solution. But applying the "no hidden fares" rule would drive any revised system, that was "revenue neutral" to be objectively fairer than the status quo.
     
  19. infobleep

    infobleep Established Member

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    The issue with this is that a ticket from A to D might be cheaper than B to C or even A to C. How can a system be designed to cope with that?

    One example is Havant to Ryde Hovercrft port.

    If you have a rail discount card then Havant to Ryde Hovercraft Port cheaper than Portsmouth to Ryde Hovercraft Port because within Portsmouth they are not allowed to sell hovercraft tickets and the Hovercraft alone doesn't offer rail card discounts. So what you do is buy it online, whilst stood in one of the Portsmouth Stations and collect from one of the Portsmouth stations ticket vending machines.

    There are A to D examples that are solely on trains too.
     
  20. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    I think it would be close to impossible to devise a structure where no such anomalies exist. But it's not the existence of the anomalies which makes the current system unfair. It's that those "in the know" can take advantage of them, but Joe Public can't.

    My suggestion would mean that if a potential customer requests a fare from B to C for travel at a particular time or times, they are offered the A to D ticket, if that's the cheapest. Same with splits. If the cheapest price for the journey involves a combination of fares, that's the fare they're offered.
     
  21. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    Here is a completely incidental nugget of information about single vs return that some might find interesting. I am not completely sure what it reveals except possibly that these fares have been set with regard to the commercial reality of the market much more than other, more regulated fares. If we look today at Doncaster to London, and take the cheapest available ticket at the station for same day departure (including ones valid only on one day):

    Single
    Grand Central £45
    Hull Trains £60
    LNER £95.10

    Return
    Hull Trains £62
    Grand Central £75
    LNER £96.10

    It's interesting how Grand Central and Hull Trains are interposed, with the former offering better value if making a single journey, and the latter offering better value if making a return journey, in both cases by some considerable margin. LNER fares are included for comparison and are of course valid on Grand Central and Hull Trains services.
     
  22. infobleep

    infobleep Established Member

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    I thunk technically being able to offer A to D instead of B to C would be really difficult to implement.

    Perhaps someone with experience of working with big amounts of data could comment.
     
    Last edited: 6 Jun 2019
  23. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    That's not quite the logic, but for sure if it was easy to make a workable proposal, someone would have done so!

    So far, every time someone comes up with an idea, I ask some questions and then the flaws in their idea become apparent.
    Market based pricing is optimal if you want to maximise revenue and minimise additional costs of new rolling stock & infrastructure and avoid popular lines becoming even more overcrowded and/or unpopular lines becoming even more sparsely used.
    A "fairer" system is possible, but will it be acceptable to all parties? It would need to be acceptable to Government, to passengers, and to train companies.
    Do you have some examples of fares that are only visible to such people?
    Let me get this right: you want someone who wishes to travel from (say) Bletchley to London Euston on WMT to make a request on a website, the website will then look at the prices of all other stations to all other stations and then come up the answer that Milton Keynes to London Euston is cheaper, and issue that instead? (assuming starting short is permitted)

    If so, this is not viable or practicable from a technical perspective.
    Virgin Trains idea of making things "simple" is to make them more like airlines, which is about as "unfair" as you can get. I don't see how you can achieve all of these items on the wish list!
    The fact is that sometimes a longer distance journey is priced cheaper than a shorter distance journeys. This happens with buses, planes and trains. It sounds to me that you are unhappy when this occurs as you perceive it to be "unfair". But you can't really stop it. I don't see how this makes fares "complex"; no-one complains that air fares are complex, despite such "unfairness" being even more rife among plane fares than train fares!
    There is no way you can eliminate that. People who claim it's easy don't understand how fares work.
    Anyone can buy any fare.

    But how can you change the fact that someone who lives in Dringhouses in York and goes to the start of the number 3 bus route will pay less than someone who starts their journey at the Tesco nearby, but the person who goes to the stop near Tesco won't be told that they can walk a short distance for a cheaper fare. It's just not going to happen. Yet no-one seems to complain about this and state that bus fares should be fairer. But I don't see how this market based pricing is any different to the market based pricing on many rail journeys?
    I agree that "splits" should be offered, but offering tickets for starting/finishing short is just not viable.
     
  24. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    I haven't worked with fares data, but I have worked with large data sets.

    For any walkup/flexible fare defined between A and D, it's not too difficult to identify all the B-C pairs of stations it's valid between. For each of those B-C pairs, if the A-D fare under consideration is cheaper or offers greater validity than any known fare for the B-C pair, it's either a new fare for B-C (and gets added to the list of known fares for B-C) or it displaces an existing B-C fare.

    Applying that to every fare which is DEFINED in the new fares structure would generate a list of fares to be OFFERED by the retailer.

    The amount of processing could be reduced by looking for sparsity in the defined fares, replication where the same fare applies to several A-D pairs and symmetry, where fares for D-A are the same as A-D, and/or C-B the same as B-C.

    It would be a significant amount of processing and generate a lot of data. But that data would simply be a look-up table of B-C fares. More fares than exist in the DEFINED fares structure, for sure, and not something you would want to print, but a set of static data nonetheless. So the significant amount of processing would not need to be done for each fares query. It would be done once after each fares review. A fares query for a given B-C ticket would simply look up the OFFERED fare(s) which match the customer's time/route preferences, and where appropriate, the DEFINED (A-D) fare from which it is derived.
     
  25. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    I get where you’re coming from but this type of thing happens all the time in everyday life.

    Utility suppliers
    Phone contracts
    Holidays
    Supermarket pricing
    Bank accounts and mortgages
    Insurance

    Are all examples of where people can pay different rates for the same item or service.

    Those who are prepared to do their research can be rewarded with a saving. I choose to research rail fares and benefit from this but in other areas of my life I’m not as well organised and potentially pay more than I need to for goods and services.

    That’s life I’m afraid.
     
  26. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    Anyone can buy any fare, but they need to know which fares to buy to get the best value for the journey they want to make. How do they know? You run fares workshops to explain to those who want to be "in the know" how to find the better value fares. Don't you?

    I'm not familiar with the Dringhouses bus route, but I'm not suggesting that rail fares should be fixed such that they're the same regardless of the stop/station you start from to reach your destination. It's probably not a direct analogy in any case, as I'm prepared to guess that the bus tickets on that route don't allow break of journey, so it's not actually possible to buy a ticket for the fare corresponding to the end of the route but use it to board at Tesco.

    That observation actually leads quite naturally to your point about market pricing. I support market pricing, in principle, though I can't pretend the train companies are operating in an ideal market when they are not paying the full cost of the infrastructure they use to run their businesses.

    That aside, if you want to price according to the market you have to explain how you manage a situation where the market for A-B-C-D means the A-D fare has to be fixed at a level lower than that of B-C yet the A-D fare can be used in lieu of the B-C fare. It seems to me you cannot differentiate B-C within that market and retain the break of journey rules. Unless, of course, you take great care to not make B-C customers aware of the A-D fare and how it can be used.

    One of the principles of operation of an ideal market is that buyers and sellers have complete knowledge of all the prices. That, in essence, is all I'm suggesting in relation to fares.
     
  27. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    The difference is that when the rail industry was privatised, part of the deal was that the private operators would have to accept inter-available tickets and wherever sold, sell them impartially. None of the other businesses you mention are obliged to sell each others products in a comparable way.
     
  28. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    The number of fares in existence is in the tens of millions; you are basically suggesting that any itinerary that is generated has to be checked for validity against this entire list in realtime?

    So a journey enquiry that may generate perhaps twenty itineraries has to have each of these checked against many millions of fares.

    If you forced the rail industry to do that (even if it was practicable, which it isn't), I suspect they'd be tempted to just introduce a term that you couldn't start or finish short on any ticket!
    It's still going to be a huge amount of processing.

    I'm really unsure what "looking for sparsity in the defined fares" is supposed to mean though!
    For every possible itinerary? I think you mean each time the timetable data changes, ie every day!

    Also every possible itinerary from every station to every other station via any station at any time is a LOT of itineraries; effectively it's an almost infinite amount.
    Ah it's that simple is it? ;) So, just to check this isn't technobabble, can you tell me what fares you would check for a journey from, say, East Croydon to Clapham Junction?
    This is unfair. All should be simplified; customers should be told where it is cheaper to buy a product priced by another supplier that would meet the customers needs. A full comparison of all products should be made for each enquiry ;)
    Retailers are required to show the best value fare for the journey but without splits. Some retailers choose to offer splits. No retailer is going to recommend starting/finishing short!
    We cover whichever topics people wish to cover. There is nothing to stop you attending one.
    They won't sell a fare from a previous stop but there is nothing to stop you finishing short.

    It sounds like you are unhappy that some people being aware that it is cheaper to buy a ticket for a longer journey and using it for a shorter one, as this is perceived to be unfair.

    What's less clear to me is whether that unfairness applies where people are not allowed to start short, or whether it applies where people are not allowed but can get away with it, or whether it applies where people are allowed to do it. If you can elaborate, I'd be interested to know.

    If you are unhappy at people doing it when it's not allowed, then any proposal to get train companies to show such fares is not workable.

    So perhaps you are only unhappy at people doing it when it is allowed, in which case the rail industry can easily 'fix' this perception of unfairness by disallowing starting/finishing short! (notwithstanding any practicalities of any such decision)

    I don't think that even higher fares would be "ideal"
    Simple. Passengers from places like Shotton to London are not prepared to pay as much as passengers from Crewe to London, therefore Virgin can make more money by pricing them accordingly. It's not fundamentally any different to what occurs with buses and planes.
    Anyone can look up any of the many millions of fares available if they wish to do so. In practice few people are prepared to do that. It would not be desirable to have a situation where everyone has in their brains knowledge of all prices in the fares database in my opinion.
    So the solution is for each leg to be individually priced and for no through ticketing to be available, resulting in fare rises for many people, but at least it means people wouldn't be able to pay less than you, so that'd be deemed a successful outcome, right?

    Or have I misunderstood your point?
     
  29. Silverdale

    Silverdale Member

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    To be clear, I'm only "unhappy", as you put it, about potential customers not being informed about cheaper fares, where they are available, but aren't through fares from the potential customer's station of origin to their destination, which are the only fares they are currently shown if they enquire at a ticket office or enter their journey requirements into most online planners.

    If the rules and restrictions for particular fares don't allow them to be used by the customer for their proposed journey, they are not available fares.

    Of course it's unfair when some people use tickets in ways that aren't allowed and get away with it, but that's not the unfairness - regarding the way tickets are sold - that I'm referring to.

    It would annoy some people who've become used to starting/finishing short, but it's not impractical. Starting/finishing short is already disallowed for some fares. It's done with advances precisely to differentiate B-C in the A-B-C-D market, in the way I mentioned in my previous post.

    If it was applied to otherwise flexible tickets it would reduce the unfairness caused by lack of full knowledge of all the available fares, but only by making some of the fares unavailable. That would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    The better alternative is to give the potential customer full knowledge of all the fares (including those which involve starting/finishing short) and allow them to choose the one which represents best value for them. Those keen on using the market to determine the level of fares should have no problem with this as it's essential to that market working properly.

    If the sellers in the market then decide to, say, make a lower fare available for A-D, which does not allow starting/finishing short, that may well abstract from the A-D which undercuts B-C and its price can then rise.

    So it could be that once there is full knowledge of all all available fares, the market decides what is the true difference in value between an A-D fare which undercuts B-C and one that doesn't.
     
    Last edited: 6 Jun 2019
  30. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    OK so the easy solution is to bar starting/finishing short on flexible fares. That would solve it, right?

    Well, quite!
    But that's not going to happen. We're never going to get a situation where a passenger travelling from Bletchley to London goes to buy a ticket and a full search of the entire database is carried out for each of the itineraries their journey enquiry generates, and they end up being sold a Milton Keynes to London ticket. And even if that did happen (which it won't), West Midlands Trains would put up the price of Milton Keynes to London.

    So what would it achieve (other than fare rises and a huge increase in computational power required for all journey searches)?
     

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