Thameslink charging Anytime fares for an off-peak service level (for the third year in a row)

Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by flitwickbeds, 30 Dec 2019.

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  1. flitwickbeds

    flitwickbeds Member

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    Despite me getting a refund of the difference - after a battle - in 2017 and 2018, Thameslink are once again charging Anytime fares this morning and tomorrow morning but running an off-peak (same as Sunday) service - at least from Flitwick.

    On a normal Monday/Tuesday from Flitwick to St Pancras between 0600 and 0900 there would be:
    • 11x semi-fast (all stations to SAC then fast to STP)
    • 6x express (skipping HLN, LEA, and LTN en route to SAC, then straight to STP)
    • 1x West Hampstead (all stations to SAC, then WHP, then STP)
    In addition there are 5 trains which skip Flitwick itself, only stopping at Bedford, Luton and St Albans before St Pancras. So that's a total of 23 trains offering a variety of journey times and connection options.

    Compared to today - 4 trains an hour, every other one stopping at West Hampstead Thameslink. No expresses, not even any trains which skip Flitwick.

    One more comparison - a random Saturday in January. No engineering works. 4 trains an hour, every other one stopping at West Hampstead Thameslink. No expresses, no skips.

    Yet today and tomorrow they are still charging Anytime fares.

    I know that peak fares are used in part to manage demand. But surely the extra money also goes into paying for the extra drivers, other staff, and track usage charges for the extra trains which run in the peak period? And if Thameslink thought there wouldn't be enough demand today to run their full peak timetable (they were correct in that) why are they charging peak prices?
     
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  3. JonathanH

    JonathanH Established Member

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    ...and they have done every year since railways were invented.

    The railway charges peak fares for travel before a certain time in the morning on working weekdays. The number of people travelling and the service offered has nothing to do with it.
     
  4. Metal_gee_man

    Metal_gee_man Member

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    This happened on the first GTR services on a Bank Holiday on Boxing Day. But who cares as its the Government and not GTR profiteering
     
  5. Robertj21a

    Robertj21a Established Member

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    Can't the TOC charge whatever it feels is appropriate ?. Not sure what the frequency of service has to do with it.
    As usual, they offer a fare - you don't have to accept it.
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2019
  6. Class83

    Class83 Member

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    Some of the intercity operators offer a reduced (essentially weekend) catering service on non-bank-holiday weekdays between Christmas and New Year. I think they mostly allow use of off peak tickets all day in return. I suppose commuter operators would argue the onboard service is the same, though it's also the same on Saturdays.
     
  7. Mathew S

    Mathew S Established Member

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    Out of curiousity, on what basis have you claimed refunds previously?
    As others have pointed out, the Anytime fare is for travelling at a specific time. If Thameslink provided the service as advertised (and it was pretty clear even to me 'up North' that many SE England TOCs would be operating a reduced service on the days betwixt Christmas and New Year) then I'm not sure why any refund would be due.
     
  8. flitwickbeds

    flitwickbeds Member

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    And that's fine. But if you consider it to be a "normal" working day, then offer a normal timetable - or reduce fares accordingly.

    Doesn't it? Then why have a peak fare structure and more services during peak times in the first place?

    By arguing in correspondence that they offered an off-peak service and therefore off-peak fares should have been in place. They agreed with me in return correspondence, apologised, and sent a cheque for the difference.

    Not sure where you are but I've just done a comparison of today and next Monday on RTT with Northern trains between 0600 and 0900 from:
    • Barnsley to Leeds
    • Blackpool North to Preston
    • Nottingham to Sheffield
    • Scarborough to Hull
    • Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly
    The timetables are exactly the same between the two dates, thus - the full timetable is being offered. Therefore no complaints for the full price being charged.
     
  9. MotorcycleAlan

    MotorcycleAlan Member

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    Perhaps they just thought it cheaper to send you cheque than to engage in long drawn out correspondence, as you may well have been the only complaint. They could cart around lots of fresh air at this time by running all the normal trains, and we could all pay higher fares to cover the cost. Just relax and enjoy a happy new year.
     
  10. flitwickbeds

    flitwickbeds Member

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    I've also looked at a few more comparisons.

    Birmingham to Milton Keynes
    Same timetable
    Today - Off-Peak
    Next Monday - Anytime

    (This breaks @JonathanH 's statement "The railway charges peak fares for travel before a certain time in the morning on working weekdays.")

    Penzance to Truro
    Same timetable
    Both dates Anytime

    Edinburgh to Glasgow
    Same timetable
    Both dates Anytime

    Holyhead to Llandudno Junction
    Same timetable
    Both dates Anytime

    Seems most train companies are either running their full timetable today and tomorrow, and are - fully justified in - charging standard peak prices for those needing it. Unlike Thameslink.
     
  11. flitwickbeds

    flitwickbeds Member

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    Or... just a suggestion... if they run a Saturday service, reduce the fares to match?
    Happy new year! I am working today, tomorrow and Wednesday and it seems I have less trains to and from work, my journey will take longer, and I'll still be forced to pay peak fares and will still be subject to morning and evening peak restrictions. Ho ho ho!
     
  12. mmh

    mmh Established Member

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    Out of curiosity, how many trains were you hoping to take to work? One usually does the trick for me.
     
  13. tsr

    tsr Established Member

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    Evening peak restrictions have been lifted for TL and GN services heading north of London. This was a planned easement which applied on Tuesday and Friday, and again applies today and tomorrow.

    (Super Off Peak tickets for local flows will generally still have evening time restrictions south of the Thames.)

    This issue has caused confusion and GTR are aware of feedback, but I am not in a position (and unlikely to be in the near future) to confirm if anything might change next winter.

    One of the other issues, not mentioned here, is that the structure of Off Peak ticket restrictions is not actually suitable for a reduced/weekend timetable, as a number of time restrictions are tied to the arrival & departure times of specific services in the weekday timetable. Inevitably, some better-natured staff will allow people to travel at reasonable times within the spirit of the conditions, but this sort of thing shouldn’t really just rely on goodwill alone!
     
  14. Mathew S

    Mathew S Established Member

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    But peak / off-peak is nothing to do with service provision, just time of travel.
    I have to say, I'm amazed they gave you anything at all.
     
  15. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    Have to say I sympathise with the above. For me the whole period is normal work (except Christmas Day), yet I have to contend with alterations to train times, which combined with factors such as shed loads of cancellations and every train resembling a mobile crèche mean in reality I’ve been using the car every day since last Monday.

    Nonetheless I think it’s one of those things we just have to suck up as that’s how it is and has always been. The morose faces on the first “working day” back after the holiday period is a sight to behold! ;)

    Another thing to add to the long list of reasons why I despise Christmas...
     
  16. Par

    Par Member

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    So you are complaining that a town with a population of 13,000 has ONLY 4 trains per hour to London and they stop a little bit more frequently than you would like en-route?

    Sounds like you are being treated terribly!
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2019
  17. transmanche

    transmanche Established Member

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    Hasn't it always been this way? In NSE days on the Great Northern route, they would run a reduced service (not running any of the peak time limited-stop services to/from Moorgate) but charge standard fares.

    Today, London Underground, DLR and most of London Overground are running a Saturday service. I'm not aware that they have scrapped peak-time fares.
     
  18. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    This. Not necessarily just cheaper, but also the easier course of action. Customer service operations are well aware that there are a few people willing to engage in a fight to the death over their complaints. It's often simpler for CS not to reciprocate and play the same game, but rather close the matter asap.
     
  19. flitwickbeds

    flitwickbeds Member

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    One is enough for everyone unless they need to change. So why not just out one train an hour everywhere and let people suck it up, is that what you're saying? Why not just one a day in each direction?

    This is my argument. I believe you're saying here that peak time ticket prices are only set to manage demand to avoid overcrowding, and in no way reflect the increased cost of the increased service at peak times, correct? If so, why not? Every other business works this way. During periods of high cost, you charge more. And reduce prices during low cost periods to entice more business and get a better ROI.

    Well, it's everywhere on the Thameslink line, I'm just using my station as an example. But no that's not my point at all. My point is on a normal working weekday, as today and tomorrow are, we have a special timetable which matches the Saturday one, yet are forced to pay the same price as if it was the full timetable. TOCs shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways - collecting higher fares while saving money. Either declare a reduced timetable and reduce the fares to match, or run the full timetable and suck up the risks and costs of doing so. I've given examples of other TOCs running their full timetables, one even charging off peak prices!

    And here we get to the point. It's always been a rip off, albeit one that not many people see, and therefore nothing can/should/will be done about it.
     
  20. Par

    Par Member

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    “Well, it's everywhere on the Thameslink line, I'm just using my station as an example. But no that's not my point at all. My point is on a normal working weekday, as today and tomorrow are, we have a special timetable which matches the Saturday one, yet are forced to pay the same price as if it was the full timetable. TOCs shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways - collecting higher fares while saving money. Either declare a reduced timetable and reduce the fares to match, or run the full timetable and suck up the risks and costs of doing so. I've given examples of other TOCs running their full timetables, one even charging off peak prices!”

    *************************************************

    Are you not capable of getting yourself to the station in a timely manner in order to catch one of the four trains per hour, even if they do take a bit longer? Why does it matter if there are ordinarily ten trains per hour (or whatever it is) you are only going to catch one of them.

    People in areas of much larger population with vastly inferior provision will be left scratching their heads at this perceived “problem”.
     
    Last edited: 30 Dec 2019
  21. flitwickbeds

    flitwickbeds Member

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    No, I got myself very successfully to the station, paid for my full-whack ticket then travelled on one of the reduced numbers of trains available. Thanks for your concern, though.

    As I've frequently explained, I'm very happy with the level of service today. Less people are at work, which means Thameslink/HMG can save resources. My train was half-full which shows they made the correct call in reducing services to match anticipated demand.
    However what my complaint is about, is having to pay full price for the ticket while Thameslink can save their money (less drivers, less staff, less track access charges).
    What we hear is that peak pricing isn't about level of service, it's just about managing demand - to price leisure users off the busiest trains to give more space to those who have no choice but to pay the higher fares. I'm totally OK with that. But using the same argument, Thameslink shouldn't have had peak pricing today as the demand for peak time trains wasn't there.

    But I'm willing to play the game, so, give me some example journeys from places which have a "much larger population and vastly inferior provision" and I will tell you how their service tomorrow morning compares to their service next Tuesday morning, and how much they'll pay for it. I've already given some examples where other TOCs are running their full timetable, and charging full price, and even one where the full timetable is in place but they're charging off-peak fares. Over to you!
     
  22. Par

    Par Member

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    So you got a train in a timely manner on a normal working day and paid the same price you normally pay on a normal working day, so not inconvenienced except for maybe a slightly longer journey?

    So your complaint is really that Thameslink are making a saving, why is this such a problem for you that you feel the need to be compensated?

    Regarding other places with much larger populations, my point is that even with this reduced level of service at Flitwick (4TPH) it is still vastly superior to the normal provision in these other places and not whether or not their timetable has reduced frequency this week.

    Many places would be delighted with 2TPH never mind 4!
     
  23. Clip

    Clip On Moderation

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    Peak ticket pricing isnt to do with how many trains are running but the timing of them - you can familiarise yourself with ticket types here https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/46548.aspx

    So NRE , the bible, even tells you that it will vary from company to company so you're on a hiding to nothing here
     
  24. Haywain

    Haywain Established Member

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    No, it isn't. At Luton Airport Parkway the number of trains stopping is much the same as usual, but there are fewer belting through without stopping.
     
  25. Mathew S

    Mathew S Established Member

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    I fear you may be rather missing the point. What I am trying to explain is that the price that you pay and the level of service provided by the train company are unconnected. Whether it's peak or off-peak pricing depends solely on the time that you wish to travel. How many trains run, how long they are, how much it costs the TOC to provide the service, it's all totally irrelevant to whether a passenger needs an anytime or off-peak ticket to travel.
     
  26. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    So the "London Intercity" operators want to spread the load and allow Offpeak tickets at all times (as their normal offpeak trains will be busy or rammed!), while no-one else does.
    The "London commuter" operators don't have an issue with rammed offpeak trains in quite the same way (big caveat there before someone tells me about the 0935 from Groombridge last Friday....), so don't need to relax restrictions.
    (The example of BHM to MKC is interesting, where Avanti set the Any Permitted fare and have removed restrictions, while LNR's operator-specific ones are still restricted. Ah well...).

    As for the OP's other examples, the non-London operators don't operate vast numbers of peak-hour extras anyway, so they can't thin them out significantly.
     
  27. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    You haven't mentioned how crowded the train that you did catch was and was it busier or quieter than on a day when most season ticket holders would be travelling.
     
  28. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    I think he has, in post #20: his train was half full.
     
  29. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    Ok thanks, but there wasn't an indication of how busy his normal train is. So on the assumption that it would be much more crowded, (otherwise TL wouldn't normally be running that many trains), he had a better ride into work for the same money as a crowded one the rest of the year's weekdays.
     
  30. Par

    Par Member

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    Indeed, but because Thameslink didn’t run as many trains (and so they have made a saving), he feels an entitlement to compensation for the difference between the Anytime and Off-Peak ticket price.
     
  31. MikeWh

    MikeWh Established Member Associate Staff Senior Fares Advisor

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    What he seems to be missing is that because loads of people didn't travel Thameslink have had less income for providing the service.
     
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