Virgin Trains West Coast goes crazy with first class 'advance' fares from April 2016

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All Line Rover

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For travel from April 2016, Virgin Trains West Coast has slashed the cost of first class 'advance' fares on all routes. The lowest price tier is available on almost all services, regardless of whether they are peak or off-peak.* Standard class advance fares remain at existing prices.

At the time of writing, the following fares apply to a peak* time return journey from Stoke-on-Trent (SOT) to London Euston (EUS) on Wednesday 20 April 2016:

SOT 06:48 to EUS 08:23: 1ST £35 / STD £95 [first arrival of the day from SOT]

EUS 17:20 to SOT 18:48: 1ST £35 / STD £95

So a first class return journey, on two of the busiest peak* services available, costs the same price as a standard class off-peak return. Whereas standard class travel costs almost triple.

These are not 'seat sale' fares (a promotion running from 01 March 2016 to 03 March 2016, with fares which, for non-Railcard holders, are even cheaper). They are regular advance fares, albeit at price tiers costing around 25% of the price tiers normally available on peak* services.

This has got to be the most bizarre pricing structure for advance fares currently in existence, particularly when services such as those mentioned in my example are almost full when first class advance fares are priced at substantially more expensive levels (the 17:20 from Euston is a 9 car Pendolino). Could these extremely cheap first class fares be a short term initiative to encourage passengers to try first class?

*Pedant notice: I am aware that a 'service' cannot be peak or off-peak. I am going on the basis of the restrictions applicable to tickets between the stations in question and London Euston.
 
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Don't knock it. If it means cheaper fares , that is good for the passenger.
 

maniacmartin

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Perhaps a handful of cheap tiers on every train will allow them to launch a new advertising spree. I can envisage it now: "Travel with us for £35 on any train!"
 

All Line Rover

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Well the cheap fares went at midnight. The first class advance fares on the Stoke to London trains I mentioned above are now £145 single. £290 return - just over 4x the price. Bargain!
 

bengolding

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Indeed. Was meant to finish at midnight but still live. I've booked quite a few in First especially on the peak Holyheads and the 1630 Euston to Glasgow for a mere £35. Credit due to Virgin for saving me a few thousand on journeys I was planning to make in April at FOR rates!
 

All Line Rover

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So it was the seat sale then :)

The first class seat sale fares for Stoke to London were £30.

£35 is the usual lowest-priced First AP tier. Still available on quieter trains, of course.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Indeed. Was meant to finish at midnight but still live. I've booked quite a few in First especially on the peak Holyheads and the 1630 Euston to Glasgow for a mere £35. Credit due to Virgin for saving me a few thousand on journeys I was planning to make in April at FOR rates!

I was tempted to book a first class ticket on the 17:10 to try the new evening meal, but I honestly can't be bothered because standard class on that train is so, so quiet in the Chester terminator (I think there were 3 people in Coach D the last time I was on it), I have a more pleasant experience in standard class.

It seems like Virgin's management can't make up their mind about the sale, because when it first started almost every train had sale tickets available, then the sale tickets were withdrawn from peak trains, and then they were reinstated on the Thursday. It is fair to say that on peak trains, the sale fares represent excellent value for money (less so, for Railcard holders, on off-peak trains).
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Was meant to finish at midnight but still live.

The sale appears to have finished as of approximately 02:10 on the Friday, disappearing from both the VTWC booking engine and website homepage.
 
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Andrew1395

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It's because revenue growth has dropped off a cliff since petrol and diesel prices have fallen by 20+% since the autumn.
 

Starmill

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It's because revenue growth has dropped off a cliff since petrol and diesel prices have fallen by 20+% since the autumn.

There may be some element of truth to this on the basis of demand not rising as quickly as predicted.

But surely it doesn't explain the sporadic nature of the fares?

I've been noticing this a bit because I've got the second lowest tier on the 0700 MAN > EUS (also available on some others e.g. 0815) in First Class where it would have been more than a hundred pounds previously.

I've got myself a £35 1st London to Glasgow ticket on the 1630 in April before it is binned :( :(

ALR will be pleased to note that this is cheaper than the cheapest tier, even for a Railcard holder.
 
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All Line Rover

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A cheeky tactic of Virgin Trains during the sale (at least on its final day - the Thursday) was that they withdrew the lowest priced first-AP tier from trains on which this tier is normally available. For example, the cheapest first-AP available on the 21:40 Euston to Manchester is usually £42, but during the sale, the sale fare was £30 and the cheapest first-AP available was £53, which is ever-so-slightly more expensive than £30 for Railcard holders. On the Friday afternoon, once the sale had finished, the £42 first-AP fares were available again! So excuse me for being cynical.

I agree with Starmill that £35 for Euston to Glasgow is excellent value for money (the Glasgow trains tend to be very busy in first class between Euston and, at least, Warrington), and I would also say that the sale was generous overall. But it would be nice if Virgin could be just a little more consistent and transparent.
 
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