Sky presenter brands Virgin Trains a 'national disgrace'

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ForTheLoveOf

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My family live in Scotland and I now live in London and the only time I've ever travelled on an open ticket between the two was earlier this year when I had to travel to London at very short notice to view flats for my new job; so I had to combine an Open Single with LNER on the way down (I'd like to say it might have been Super Off Peak but I can't remember the limitations on travelling from Edinburgh to London so it might have been anytime) with a First Class Advance with Virgin on the way back because that worked out the cheapest. But I think that events like this are rare and generally there's a level of planning that goes into long distance trips, and there's probably always a way to work it so that you can save at least some money: may it be travelling off peak on the out leg to save that; or doing advances on at least one leg if possible since in most cases you can plan for at least one leg, surely?

Besides if its for work generally work will expense for it and if they expect you to travel on short notice then they need to take that into account with how much they pay back. Although my only experience with this was working in Brussels where generally there's a fixed amount they expense for trips and if you can do it cheaper than that then you get to keep the rest; which is a little different and arguably might actually encourage people to seek cheaper alternatives than just generic Anytime tickets. When you think about alternative forms of long-distance public transport (the plane and the coach) then generally you have to book at a particular time anyway, so I don't see why we ought to perceive the train in a different way.
I suppose the problem is that the train fulfils many roles at once. For some, it's a means of long-distance travel, competing with coach or air. For others, it's about a day trip around town where they might otherwise use the bus. And for others, it's an alternative to taking the car for their commute.
 
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Butts

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I suppose the problem is that the train fulfils many roles at once. For some, it's a means of long-distance travel, competing with coach or air. For others, it's about a day trip around town where they might otherwise use the bus. And for others, it's an alternative to taking the car for their commute.

And for others it's imbibing as much Free Scotch as you can between Sandwell & Dudley and Aberdeen courtesy of Virgin and LNER'S 1st Class Advanced Bargains available for a quarter of the cost of the Sky Presenters Fare.

Rail Travel is a rip off for commuters but a bargain for Day's Out on a virtually all inclusive basis with Lounge Access and onboard goodies.
 

kieron

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On a serious point, if the fare did reduce, how would they make up the short fall to fund the railways?
Some of it will be made up by people buying anytime tickets instead of off peak or Advance ones, or by people switching from road to rail. I certainly don't know how much this would be, though.

To pick up a point from earlier, Virgin's outbound restrictions for southbound off peak returns (SVR) are almost identical to the return restrictions for northbound ones (and similarly in the other direction). This may be partly because they use the same restriction codes for online-only off peak single (SVH) fares.

Last time I visited the Virgin site, it could give the customer prices for two SVHs but switch to a SVR later in the process on its own initiative. If the ticket validities didn't match, the site could end up selling a ticket which isn't valid at the times the customer was led to expect.
 

Deepgreen

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Just seen this.




I don't get it though basically she got a walk up fare at the station and didn't like the price so she complained on twitter and some people think this is news that someone isn't happy with a rail fare. Also its a bit unfair to compare the cost of flights with that of rail travel as the flights are normally booked far in advance.

How much does it cost to operate a flight to Australia compared with a train journey to Manchester, with both carrying the same order of magnitude of passenger numbers? I would suggest that the flight must be at least ten times more expensive to run. The fuel alone for the flight will be in the realms of tens of thousands of pounds. Advanced booking is irrelevant - busy railway routes have traditionally been 'walk up', even when train formations were variable to a degree to meet demand - they are not these days, and more and more seats require booking anyway.

A fare of £338 for the Manchester rail run is obscene in my view.
 

andrewkeith5

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How much does it cost to operate a flight to Australia compared with a train journey to Manchester, with both carrying the same order of magnitude of passenger numbers? I would suggest that the flight must be at least ten times more expensive to run. The fuel alone for the flight will be in the realms of tens of thousands of pounds. Advanced booking is irrelevant - busy railway routes have traditionally been 'walk up', even when train formations were variable to a degree to meet demand - they are not these days, and more and more seats require booking anyway.

A fare of £338 for the Manchester rail run is obscene in my view.

Since when was the price of any transport ticket directly related to the cost?

It just isn’t. Pricing of transport is far more advanced than that. It would also be almost impossible for any one of us to calculate the cost of an individual airline seat on an individual route, there are just too many commercial variables.

You can pay as little as £2/300 for a BA flight from Heathrow to New York. Plenty of people are more than willing to pay the £6-10,000 fare for First Class that you probably consider obscene - but what you’re willing to pay is not particularly relevant to what someone else is.
 

ash39

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At least by air you all get treated equally in the aircraft cabin. What really hacks me is when on my business trips I get an expensive (fortunately reimbursed) Anytime ticket, because I don't know when the meeting will end, I can end up having to stand, as posted recently, having paid £250 return, while those who paid 10% or so of that are sat in reserved seats.

It's one reason someone in my office certainly drives long distance, having once had to stand for hours on a Cross Country, having probably bought the most expensive Standard class fare of anyone in the train.

So you're asking for equality but then imply people who pay more for their ticket are more worthy of a seat?

You have the option of doing what I do when I travel for work. Book a 'worst case advance ticket, and if you get out early grab something to eat. It's cheaper for the business and all it means is I may be an hour later home than I could have been. Plus you get a reserved seat...

Personally I think it’s really important not to try and defend these fares.

It’s interesting how advance fares have changed over the years. I remember in the early years post privatisation they used to be primarily an incentive to draw people off the most heavily loaded services onto specific lighter loaded ones. That seemed to make perfect sense.

It does seem now the Advance fare, in various forms, has become almost the main form of long distance ticket, with significant savings over off peak returns on most routes, and at little notice.

It also, to my mind, helps DfT fudge the figures, so when someone makes a perfectly valid complaint about this kind of extortionate ticket on a railway upgraded with vast amounts of public money , they reply, “ah but look, you can get a London to glasgow advance for £30”. Not mentioning the need to travel at 1530, on a Tuesday, in January. The experience of most Glasgow to London travellers I speak to does not include £30 fares.

The public perception of the railway seems so negative, news stories like this are unhelpful. If Virgin really Make no money from this ticket, scrap it. The response from them seems dangerously close to “Ha, no one is stupid enough to buy that one.”

You forget a major factor at play, and although I only skimmed the first two pages of this thread I was surprised nobody mentioned it.

If the walk on fare was competitive with road travel (let's say for arguments sake, at 0.45p per mile), would the railways have enough capacity to cater for demand?

Yes the fare is very expensive. No I wouldn't pay it. The fare isn't high to rip people off, it's to manage demand.

City centre car parks are a good analogy here. You can pay a premium for the convenience of parking in the most central spot in town (anytime return). Or you can pay less and accept you may have to walk to your destination (advance). If the central location was cheaper, nobody would get a space.

It's very simple but not many people seem to be able to understand it.

Before people come at me saying 'yes but the 1540 from xxx to xxx is nearly always empty when I use it'. Yes, that might be the case, but you can guarantee there'd be mayhem on some services.
 

Meole

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20 colleagues are on secondment travelling daily from Manchester Picc to London Euston, fares are paid for on a contract with the Treasury that runs for over 2 years, cost has no relevance, this is not unusual.
 

radamfi

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The key thing here is that there is effectively no service for large parts of the day on the most important route in the country. How can that make any sense?
 

F Great Eastern

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Perhaps someone can give the journalist an apple so she can compare her apple with it, since she seems to keep comparing her apple to many different oranges.

The problem with these kind of articles is they are easy and very cheap headlines for newspapers who want to spin something to suit their agenda by comparing apples with oranges.

Comparing an on the day return train ticket with a single flight booked weeks in advance is at best heavy use of spin and at worst completely dishonest and misleading.

I think the fare is too much, totally, but the complete hyperbole about I can fly to x place and stay in y hotel and for this price I can't get a train bull**** is really tedious, because honestly, the price of a flexible plane ticket on the day of departure is a far bigger hike than rail fares are.
 

Skie

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There's a small but identifiable section of the market that, whether they are on expenses or not, do seem to find it extraordinarily difficult to make even vague commitments to travel plans with published restrictions.
I deal with them every day, and it's sometimes like pushing water uphill to get them to understand that there's only one train that will get them there in time, and therefore they can perfectly adequately restrict themselves to an Advance.
Likewise, for the inbound, I appreciate that they may not know exactly when they'll be able to travel, but might they be able to commit to before 1530 or after 1900?
That can blow their minds.
I shan't speculate as to the reasons why they do this, but they do, and if I observe it then the revenue managers for the railways must too. Media rhetoric about 'the complexity of ticketing' may even play into RevMan's hands here, as that absolutely confirms the necessity for an 'Open' ticket in the requester's mind.

This, very very much. Trying to get 10 adults to commit to a travel date a few months in the future can be an utter pain in the backside. The larger the group, the more flaky the excuses for not wanting to commit. Fair enough if something happens at the last minute that means you can't travel, life happens, but if you can't organise your life in such a way that you can be away from home for a job that had clear as day in the application "this post requires some travel" I do worry for the rest of us.
 

BluePenguin

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Point taken but at what point doesn't it become outrageous - £300? £200? £100? Even if it was £100 you would still get people claiming that that was too much!
....well that is because it IS too much! I would not pay much more than £45
 

Polarbear

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I agree that £338 is a heck of a lot of money for a standard class return, on a train, for a round trip of just under 400 miles. Unfortunately, this story keeps cropping up in the press from time to time, when someone has to travel at short notice & gets a sharp pain in the wallet!

The reasons for there being such a high fare are more complex than just being a case of "rip off Britain". I suspect that many of the TOC's would much rather everyone pre-book, so that supply & demand can be matched as closely as possible (and they can operate their services as efficiently & at the lowest cost possible). You only have to see the multiplicity of AP fares, which were once a preserve of the off peak market, but are now available at most times of the day (albeit some are just below walk on fares for similar journeys).

It could be argued that that the high cost of the Anytime return is set at a level so as to supress demand for people just "walking up". I've seen more than one thread where posters (including myself) have bemoaned the fact that a weekday day return from many provincial areas to London is now prohibitively expensive, unless planned well in advance & you're prepared to pin yourself to specific trains.

As for the media reports, these will keep on coming, as long as the system remains like it is. Repeated dodgy comparisons between the £338 fare and other tickets that general have to be booked WELL in advance are a symptom of lazy journalism, ill informed public opinion on social media,

One final point, if a (so called) journalist can put on public record such ill informed comments and comparisons, one wonders about the accuracy of their reporting of other matters.
 

yorksrob

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But the fact remains that even if one were making a reasonable comparison between similar ticket types and similar distance IC journeys, this particular fare seems unjustifiable.
 

Greenback

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Walk up, unrestricted long distance fares have been far too high for some time. I've been saying for years that the differences between the cheaper Advance fares and an Anytime Single or Return are just too wide. Why this is was touched on at the start of the thread. It's because the train operators are interested in maximising revenue. They are not interested in getting people out of their cars, making it cheaper for government departments to send their staff to other locations or anything that doesn't benefit them directly.

The questions I have include whether we want the railway to be a public service, an instrument of government policy to benefit the entire nation, a completely commercial operation without any government input at all, or a quasi commercial outfit that provides a strange mixture which could be described as the worst of all worlds.

My vote goes for the first option.
 

Senex

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The questions I have include whether we want the railway to be a public service, an instrument of government policy to benefit the entire nation, a completely commercial operation without any government input at all, or a quasi commercial outfit that provides a strange mixture which could be described as the worst of all worlds.
That's the crucial question that no-one wants to answer. A modern society where we expect people to be mobile and go where the work is inevitably brings needs for longer-distance travel than was customary even fifty years ago. Many parts of Europe now recognise that local travel is a public good that needs to be easily accessible at readily affordable fares, but extending that thinking to longer-distance transport seems to be very slow coming. To pretend that a trip from Manchester to London is like a holiday flight from Manchester to somewhere like Disneyland that can be planned months in advance just doesn't meet the realities of the way we live now and need to travel now. I agree with you completely about public service and government policy, I think there is no hope for a completely commercial operation any more, and I also agree with you that the quasi-commercial set-up we have at the moment is the worst of all worlds.
 

modernrail

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These fares are a tax on the north, plain and simple.

The often trotted out nonsense that you can avoid the fare by doing this that and the other is ridiculous. If it is so easy to avoid these fares then you don't need them in the first place. Actually, plenty of times I have tried to book tickets days in advance and there are no advance fares remaining or they are about £10 cheaper than the open fare and so utterly pointless. I use this line an awful lot for business and spend a fortune buying additional tickets when I miss my original advance booking because the meeting overran or more and more frequently, started late because people were late getting there because..... their train was delayed. So basically my business pays even more into the railways because the railways cannot produce a punctual service. People often say oh well it is full of people who can claim it back anyway. Yes, and in the case of any owner run business that is coming straight out of the money you have to pay salaries and invest in growing the business. A very large number of passengers will be public sector workers, BBC workers etc. So the NHS is effectively subsidising cheap leisure travel. Utterly stupid.

It is really, really simple. It is morally unacceptable to have a system where there is such a massive gap between the cheapest fares and the highest priced fares. If the cheapest fares need to become less cheap then so be it. You can miss your train for many reasons, especially in a very crowded island with fairly poor travel infrastructure. The idea that you might be told your £30 advance ticket is not valid and you need to pay a new fare in the hundreds of pounds is just immoral, simple as that. I have seen students, pensioners and people in-between in tears whilst being told they need to pay something akin to their monthly budget for all spending money just because something went wrong on their journey to the station, as happens to all. The fact that your original ticket price is not deducted from the new fare just adds another layer of immorality to the whole thing.
 

Master29

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To pretend that a trip from Manchester to London is like a holiday flight from Manchester to somewhere like Disneyland that can be planned months in advance just doesn't meet the realities of the way we live now and need to travel now. I agree with you completely about public service and government policy, I think there is no hope for a completely commercial operation any more, and I also agree with you that the quasi-commercial set-up we have at the moment is the worst of all worlds.


There are many who would call that a holiday if they were seeing family or friends. Why this "all of us" talk. It is, as you rightly point out about the fares system not so much about how we live now. Business travels hasn`t really changed that much.
 

35B

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Referring to post #102 above

On 'Corporate' travel behaviour, I suspect some middle managers actually enjoy the privilege of booking expensively as a matter of one-upmanship. It could be argued that they can at least use the phone hands-free, if driving, but havng heard yesterday in a waiting room, against my will, one of these people chatting to what apparently was a group speak-in, I suspect the main use of these facilities is to use it to put one over on "colleagues" (i.e. competitors for promotion). On the train, they can work with their computer but again, one wonders how much time is spent in email one-upmanship.
I am in that bracket, and would love to have the time to do any of that. I know how much an hour of my time costs my employer, and I know how much time I need to spend sorting out travel arrangements. Frequently, by the time I’ve tried to sort out an itinerary and compared options (leaving aside any questions about colleagues, suppliers and customers diaries), there is little saving in buying an AP ticket, especially if the timings on one or other leg are fluid. And, in the context of the size of budgets that we are often working within, the savings are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

That doesn’t begin to justify the level of some fares, or make them “reasonable”, but needs to be understood as to why they are paid.

PS - we also need to allow for what some will pay without blinking. Like the two consecutive customers buying 1st open returns at the ticket office the other morning, without blinking.
 
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