Shouldn't they release the cheapest AP tickets first?

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trainophile

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I'm a bit annoyed as at the beginning of March I searched for a ticket HFD to SOP for 21st May, having waited as I always do for the AP tickets to be released. At that time the only AP price available was £13.85 (with railcard - presumably £20 without). I was surprised at this as the usual cheapest with railcard price is £8.60 (£13 without railcard). I assumed for some reason the lowest band had been discontinued for Monday travel, or some such explanation, and bought the £13.85 one, not wishing to even miss out on that too if I left it too long.

As at today, I find I could now get an £8.60 ticket for my journey on that date, and even an £11.20 one for the very same trains I'm booked on! Seems I have paid over the odds by booking 12 weeks ahead. We are advised to do that as the cheapest tickets are on restricted allocation and may be sold out if we don't buy immediately.

It seems it is no longer safe to assume that the cheapest tickets are released first. This makes a mockery of buying early, as by doing so you can find you've paid over the odds when cheaper ones are subsequently loaded in the system.

Was this just a blip, or do we now have to take a gamble when committing to AP tickets that a cheaper one might not subsequently appear?
 
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calc7

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It could be to one company not releasing their trains for reservations/connections at the time (eg Northern) meaning the only Advances that could be formed by the booking system used another operator (say, Merseyrail) with a different quotaing price/process.

For example, booking Swinton (S Yorks) to London - for a particular date in 12 weeks' time, Northern and EC may have confirmed their timetable, and you'll be offered EC&Connections Advances. Next week, EMT may finalise their timetable and you'll be offered the usually cheaper EMT&Connections Advances.
 

yorkie

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What is the route printed on your ticket? There are two possible routes VWC & Connections and AP Shrewsbury (priced by ATW).
 

142094

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Although probably not in your case, there can be times where someone has placed a ticket in their basket, but then does not complete the purchase. This temporarily takes that ticket out of the booking system, but could reappear later on without warning. But in general, the earlier you buy the cheaper it is with advances.
 

trainophile

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What is the route printed on your ticket? There are two possible routes VWC & Connections and AP Shrewsbury (priced by ATW).
AP Shrewsbury. It's via Crewe and Liverpool South Parkway. I could get that same ticket tonight for £11.20, or a route Chester/Moorfields one for £8.60.

Not the end of the world as I'm only a fiver down, but if this situation occurs on other journeys there could be substantial differences involved.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Although probably not in your case, there can be times where someone has placed a ticket in their basket, but then does not complete the purchase. This temporarily takes that ticket out of the booking system, but could reappear later on without warning. But in general, the earlier you buy the cheaper it is with advances.
Just to clarify, on the date I booked it the entire £6.95 to £44 section listed nothing but £13.85 choices. Even messing around with the "via" options didn't produce anything below that, so it's unlikely that all 10 or so of the timings I would consider were reserved in someone's basket!

I've just randomly checked Monday 11th June, and blow me down, again there is nothing below £13.85. Think I'm onto something here!
 

calc7

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Not the end of the world as I'm only a fiver down, but if this situation occurs on other journeys there could be substantial differences involved.
I'm sure it happens quite a lot! People booking Anytime or Off-Peak singles for weeks ahead when
  • They will be the same price on the day anyway (other than some web specials, eg East Coast)
  • The Advance quota has not quite been released
 

moonrakerz

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I have noticed that this occasionally occurs on SWT's Bristol - Waterloo service as well..............it certainly does look as though the very cheapest tickets are withheld for a while.
This particular service has become more and more popular - are they judging demand before going (if at all) to the cheapest tickets ?
 

trainophile

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I'm thinking it's a bit underhand really if that is the case. Catch those who don't know what to expect, except that they have to buy quickly to get "the best" deal, then when they have unwittingly bought the dearer ones, quietly tack on the real cheapies in the hope that not so many will be taken up.

Not sure how ethical it is, but if we make too much fuss they'll probably scrap APs altogether, which would be a real tragedy!
 

wibble

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I have noticed that this occasionally occurs on SWT's Bristol - Waterloo service as well..............it certainly does look as though the very cheapest tickets are withheld for a while.
This particular service has become more and more popular - are they judging demand before going (if at all) to the cheapest tickets ?
SWT don't 'withhold' any of their Advance fares. Once they're released for a service, they don't add any more!
 

moonrakerz

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SWT don't 'withhold' any of their Advance fares. Once they're released for a service, they don't add any more!
I would dispute that to some extent ............OR, there is something very "strange" happening in the booking system. Over the past 5 or 6 years there has been noticeable "tweaking" of the AP fares on this route.

I regularly use the SWT Temple Meads/Waterloo service and it does not always pay me to buy AP tickets as soon as they appear on line. The cheapest tickets do not necessarily appear first. I know what the cheapest fare is and it often pays (literally !) to wait a bit.

They have also introduced a new pricing band which sits above the previous lowest fares.
At one time the cheapest fares were on the through services - now the cheapest fares are most often on the combined FGW/SWT "change at Salisbury" services. I have just pulled out a couple of random dates at the end of May and the cheapest fare is not available on the through service on any of these dates. It almost appears to be a way of "premium pricing" the through service, now that they have built up some trade on that route ...........
BUT - the First Class fare is the cheapest available on the through service :lol:

Having said all that, the fares on this route are still VERY good value for money.
To arrive in London by midday: SWT via Salisbury (direct) £8.60. FGW via (change at) Westbury £16.50 (Both on a railcard from WMN).
 

trainophile

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(posted by me yesterday)
I've just randomly checked Monday 11th June, and blow me down, again there is nothing below £13.85. Think I'm onto something here!
... and today some £8.60 fares have appeared! Wish I'd taken a screen shot yesterday.

I'm using www.eastcoast.co.uk but all the websites I sometimes use generally show the same fares.

How can you tell which TOC sets a particular fare, when the journey involves more than one?
 

trainophile

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Thank you. What an interesting website. Looks like I have to take my issue up with ATW - surprise surprise. (I only say that because the bulk of my journey is on their train!)

Would still love to know whether this is deliberate or just one of those things.

ETA: .
Customers should book as far
in advance as possible to get
the cheapest fares.
 
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Oscar

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Cross Country also seem to withhold their cheapest Advance Purchase tickets initially. I needed to buy a Cross Country single from Redland (Bristol) to York for some time in June and found that it was initially around £27 and then the next day £18.15. In fact, all trains initially had tickets available for £27 whereas later some had gone up to £49.50 (if I remember rightly) while others had gone down. Luckily I knew about this and waited. I doubt however that the railways are trying to catch people out by only releasing their cheapest tickets only a day or even a few hours after the rest and presume that it is something to do with the way the fares are entered into the system.
 

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Thank you. What an interesting website. Looks like I have to take my issue up with ATW - surprise surprise. (I only say that because the bulk of my journey is on their train!)

Would still love to know whether this is deliberate or just one of those things.

ETA: .
It is not only up to the TOC that sets the fare but also when the connecting services are released.For example ATW+Cons tickets using Merseyrail may be released before ATW+Cons using Northern because Merseyside have released their connections and Northern have not. (Often due to Network Rail releasing the timetables late for some routes)
 

DaveNewcastle

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It is not only up to the TOC that sets the fare but also when the connecting services are released. . . . .
I'm not sure I fully understand this (and I am disregarding the NR issue for the moment which is a pragmatic factor, I'm just looking for clarification of the TOCs' procedures).

Are you explaining that a TOC may release its weekly quota of Advance tickets available for immediate purchase in the one operation (i.e. on one day and in one transaction), but that all of those journeys which also require a booking on another operator's service are compared against that other operator's quotas, and, that if that second operator's quotas have not yet been released in a similar operation, then that first Operator's quota of Advances are in the booking database, but the TIS retailling systems see them 'flagged' as invisible to users, so do not display them?

This is of interest to people seeking to book journeys at the lowest possible price. And its of interest to me in terms of transparency of commercial practice and an inter-dependence between operators which undermines one of the objectives of Privitisation - independant, free and open competition in the market.

It begs the question of what other tickets may be in the booking database but 'flagged' as invisible?
 

OwlMan

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A TOC can release an advance ticket once the timetable has been released for that date but no earlier than 12 weeks.
Any Advance ticket that uses connections from another TOC also needs those connections to be "released" by the appropiate TOC.
So if Virgin have AP tickets from Coventry - Bolton there may be different release dates for tickets using FTPE and for those using Northern.

Peter
 

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My understanding is that advance fare quotas are enforced by forcing the booking engines to obtain a reservation for all services that form part of an itinerary, if they have reservations available. If a connecting service is marked in the timetable as having reservations available, but reservations haven't yet opened on that service, then it cannot be booked as part of a through itinerary for an "& CONNECTIONS" type advance, even if reservations have opened and quota is available on the primary, quota-controlled leg of the journey.

This can lead to unfortunate situations such as the one described in this thread.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
So if Virgin have AP tickets from Coventry - Bolton there may be different release dates for tickets using FTPE and for those using Northern.
I agree with this with regard to TPE, but I wouldn't expect it to apply to Northern as no Northern services have reservations as far as I know. If the connecting service is operated by Northern, I would expect advance fares to show as available as soon as reservations open on the main, quota-controlled leg (Virgin in this case).
 

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A TOC can release an advance ticket once the timetable has been released for that date but no earlier than 12 weeks.
Any Advance ticket that uses connections from another TOC also needs those connections to be "released" by the appropiate TOC.
So if Virgin have AP tickets from Coventry - Bolton there may be different release dates for tickets using FTPE and for those using Northern.

Peter
But that sort of journey will be Vigin + Connections as you would be able to take any train after the Virgin leg - they wont have to wait for anything to be released.
 

Indigo2

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But that sort of journey will be Vigin + Connections as you would be able to take any train after the Virgin leg - they wont have to wait for anything to be released.
How does the booking engine know that? What if TPE want to put a zero quota on their busy services to attempt to stop Virgin + Connections tickets being used on them (or at least being suggested by booking engines!) for example?
 

OwlMan

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But that sort of journey will be Vigin + Connections as you would be able to take any train after the Virgin leg - they wont have to wait for anything to be released.
If Network Rail are working on that line, tickets will not be released until the timetable is finalised which may be two or more weeks after tickets using an alternative connection.
 

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If Network Rail are working on that line, tickets will not be released until the timetable is finalised which may be two or more weeks after tickets using an alternative connection.
If NR are working on the line at that time then they will be putting replacement buses on surely so the ticket can still be sold.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
How does the booking engine know that? What if TPE want to put a zero quota on their busy services to attempt to stop Virgin + Connections tickets being used on them (or at least being suggested by booking engines!) for example?
My error I only read about northern and im not to up to date with north west service providers from all stations all over the area and my comment was based only on the one provider - Northern - who do not do advances.
 

John @ home

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Northern do not offer Advance tickets for journeys where they set the fare, but they may still be involved in a delay in Advance tickets becoming available.

As an example, I often find that the best value Advance Leeds - London tickets are obtained by specifying "via Barnsley" and using Northern Leeds - Sheffield and EMT Sheffield - St Pancras.

But if Network Rail intend to have weekend engineering work on the Barnsley line, the failure to release the timetable for that line may prevent me booking an Advance ticket. Meanwhile, the quota of cheapest "EMT & Connections" seats may sell out.

As a result, the best ticket for me may be by EC from Leeds or GC from Wakefield. In these circumstances, EMT lose my custom through no fault of their own.
 
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I've just had similar issue with an advance fare quote going *down* in price - literally overnight!

Yesterday evening (27 March) on East Coast Trains website I booked the cheapest quoted 1st class advance single available for the 14.00 Kings Cross to Newcastle on 04 June 2012. Price was £95. It was not showing as a "web fare".

This morning (10.30 am 28 March) the same is being offered as a "web fare" for just £71.60!

Anybody any idea what is going on? I can see no reference to this effect on any consumer website (I looked on moneysavingexpert.com for example) - so any advice from the experts would be welcome. Is it just a glitch on the website? Is it worth complaining to East Coast?

Many thanks in advance (no pun intended!)
 

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I've just had similar issue with an advance fare quote going *down* in price - literally overnight!

Yesterday evening (27 March) on East Coast Trains website I booked the cheapest quoted 1st class advance single available for the 14.00 Kings Cross to Newcastle on 04 June 2012. Price was £95. It was not showing as a "web fare".

This morning (10.30 am 28 March) the same is being offered as a "web fare" for just £71.60!

Anybody any idea what is going on? I can see no reference to this effect on any consumer website (I looked on moneysavingexpert.com for example) - so any advice from the experts would be welcome. Is it just a glitch on the website? Is it worth complaining to East Coast?

Many thanks in advance (no pun intended!)

If it's just one train that's affected that sounds like someone put the last £71.60 ticket in their online basket but did not complete the purchase. It will have stayed in their basket for 2 hours before being available again.
 

trainophile

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I'm now tending to think this is standard practice for some TOCs, given the accounts reported in this thread.

For clarification of my OP, my usual route is ATW + (unreservable) Merseyrail, so only ATW would have an input into the release of these AP tickets.

At the very least they should stop telling people to book as early as possible (within the 12 week window) to obtain the cheapest fares, as this clearly is not accurate.
 

Indigo2

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But if Network Rail intend to have weekend engineering work on the Barnsley line, the failure to release the timetable for that line may prevent me booking an Advance ticket. Meanwhile, the quota of cheapest "EMT & Connections" seats may sell out.
I will believe this when I see proof :) It is my understanding that there is no concept of "releasing the timetable"; the full base timetable up to December 2012 is already in the system and all booking engines have access to it. This base timetable will of course be modified if there are engineering works.

When Network Rail send notification that they have finished all modifications for a certain date and won't be making any more changes, that prompts TOCs to release reservations for their trains that will be running on that date.

It is my view that if a train is not marked in the timetable as reservable, then it is unaffected by this process, and it is possible for it to be shown as a suggested connection in an itinerary and then subsequently be changed or cancelled if there is late notification of engineering work.

I'm willing to be proved wrong though; there are often more subleties to these things than meets the eye.
 
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Thanks Deerfold. That would certainly explain it. And the worst of it is that I realise it could have been me that didn't complete the purchase! I was checking various routes in various browser tabs last night and could have clicked the "buy now" button at some point without completing. Annoying! It looks like East Coast are aware of this effect however. I've just checked the Terms & Conditions for Advance fares (after the event of course!), and there's the following clause...

"There may be rare occasions where the cost of a journey may go down after reservations have opened. We regret that Advance tickets that have already been bought will not be refunded in part or in whole in such circumstances."

I guess it might still be worth complaining? (and I've taken a snapshot of today's website). Only I'm especially annoyed as the ticket was for an elderly relative who is not wealthy.
 
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