Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fares Fair?

I am gob-smacked. Truly gob-smacked.

I have spoken before, of how by travelling into London you get a better deal that if you commute around the South West. But I didn't realise quite how much a better deal you get. Having read some comments about season ticket prices on I Hate FGW's blog, I have investigated the price of tickets from Bath to London and from Bath to Cathays. Here's what I found:

Bath Spa - London Paddington
Daily Open Return: £121.00
Weekly Season: £174.80

Thus a weekly ticket costs 1.44 times the price of a daily open return.

Bath-Cathays (just outside Cardiff)
Daily Open Return: £16.60
Weekly Season: £70.80

Thus a weekly ticket costs 4.26 times the price of a daily open return.

That's not even close to being fair. In fact, put another way it means that commuters to London travel Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for free.

It means that commuters in the southwest get Friday afternoon for free.

Oh, and don't forget, if you travel to London you get relatively comfy, high-speed trains that are in the process of being refurbished. You get an on-board buffet, toilets, tables, optional first class and plug points at your seat.

If you travel between Bath and Cardiff you get the crappiest trains FGW can find (they gave all the nice ones away). These trains are often dilapidated, the toilets don't work, the windows leak when it rains, the air-con doesn't work and on half of them there is no room for a 6ft man to sit down comfortably, let alone tables to do some work.

How does FGW justify this disparity? I'll write to them and ask.
I think I'll let the local rag and my MP know the situation, while I'm at it.


I hate FGW said...

Hi Billyo
This is a very interesting issue, and one which I think I will bring up on my blog too, it seems ridiculous that just because London isn't part of your journey, that you should be penalised to quite such an extent. Please keep me posted as to what answer you get to your complaint letter, and don't forget to complain twice!

Coldbrain said...

And there's me complaining about the sixty notes it costs me for a saver return from MK to Bath... a trip I make approximately once a year these days.

Seems like they've got you guys by the balls with their pricing. Good luck with the complaint/'enquiry'.

Anonymous said...

It is because when the Government originally privatised the railways it attempted to protect the customers by capping some (but only some) of the fares. They capped the saver and season tickets to annual inceases of inflation minus 1% (in reacent years this has shifted to inflation + 1% and for a while there was a slight variation on the scheme whereby better performing franchises were permitted a slightly higher increase). Open returns are unregulated. This meant that when the train companies wanted to increase their revenue they couldn't introduce across the board increases so they increased the price of open returns, abolished (most of) the supersaver which were slightly cheaper than savers but were not valid on Fridays and increased the restrictions on savers. They also introduced some very low book ahead fares in limited quotas.

The result is that the whole system is a complete mess. All fares need to be scrapped and worked out again on some reasonably fair basis.

Another rediculous thing is that the current fares are still tied to what BR charged in 1996. So Virgin's fares on the West Coast main line are cheaper (per mile) than GNER's on the East coast main line because in 1996 the West Coast route was inferior. But £9 Billion has been spent on upgrading the West Coast main line so today passengers have new trains and faster journey times but they still get to pay the lower regulated fares based on those set in 1996.

Also the fares previously set by Wessex are cheaper than those previously set by FGW even today when FGW runs all the trains in teh SW. This means you can save money on a Bath - London trip by buying separte tickets for Bath- Swindon (formerly set by Wessex) and for Swindon - London.


Anonymous said...

All of those travelling on open returns should find out the price of a weekly season and devide that amount by about 4.5 to find out the (inflation adjusted) fare that BR woudl have charged.

You may be shocked.

Billyo said...

I've realised now that it is the Open Return Price to London that is the black sheep of this data set.

It is an interesting point you raise about the government regulation of saver tickets and season tickets. Though I should bring your attention to the fact (if you didn't know already) that the government allowed these tickets to be raised by 13% on routes around Bristol in January this year.

It is their policy that the "majority" of regulated fares were capped, not all of them.

Anonymous said...

The Open return fare from Bath to London is £121. It is actually cheaper to buy a ticket from Bath to Paris (from £59 London to Paris return, the posession of this ticket allows you to but a Bath London "Euro High Saver" which has no restictions but costs £54).

See for details.

You can also buy an unrestricted ticket from London to Rosslare in Ireland for £59 return. This covers the the train from Paddington to Swansea and on to Fishguard and then the ferry to Rosslare (see the sailrail website for details). This is much cheaper than the London Cardiff or London Swansea open return fares. You are not supposed to break your rail journey, but if you got off the London train at Cardiff central and also had a Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff central ticket to show at the Exit barriers at Cardiff central then who would ever know?

Billyo said...

*jaw hits floor*

That's bonkers. Thanks for coming by and letting me know.

Anonymous said...

have a look at

for a details of season ticket prices.