or how to save £180 on a day trip to York
UK, National Rail Railway Museum, The Great Hall
This week, to coincide with the school half-term holiday, the National Railway Museum in York is holding its 1968 and all that special exhibition to commemorate the passing of everyday steam haulage of service trains from the tracks of British Railways. In the good old days, thanks to a special promotion for off peak trips called cheap day returns, day trips to place like York were quite affordable. But alas no longer. Cheap day returns were abolished on 18 May. The UK government is using pricing to discourage people from going by train. If this was not bad enough, the saver returns that have replaced them are often more expensive than buying two single tickets, which will ensure that a lot of people will pay more for their rail journey than they really have to.
To explain how this daylight robbery works, consider a journey from Reading to York on Monday 2 June. Changing trains at Birmingham, the journey should take less than four hours. Services from Reading to Birmingham and Birmingham to York are operated by Cross Country trains so lets start with their website. A standard open return which is valid on all the mornings trains will set me back £224. Gulp! for that sort of money I could travel right across Europe by rail. However, don’t despair the website reveals something called a business saver. This return ticket only costs £139, but is valid only on the 04:40, 06:10 and all morning trains after 10:40. However, if you restrict your train travel to either of the 10:40, 11:29 trains out and return only by the 18.24 you are eligible to use a different standard open return which sounds more expensive, but is actually £2 cheaper than the business saver. So where does the saver return mentioned earlier come in. Well those who ask are more likely to receive, and if you ask for such a saver ticket you will surely get one of these at £89.20. It will be valid for either the 09:10 or 10:10 out, and on all of the return connections in the afternoon. There’s also a weird variant of the saver return which costs £6.60 less than the ticket just mentioned and applies either to the 22:10 and 23:50 departures on the Sunday, and involves travelling overnight for over 10 hours, or allows you to travel out by the 10:10 (arrives 14:29) and later trains, but only allows you to return on the 19:29 limiting your time in York to a maximum of 5 hours. Presumably this variant was introduced to maintain the statistical fiction that the ‘simplification’ of rail fares has not increased the price.
So should one buy a saver return at £89.20? Not on your Nellie, if we click around a bit more we should be able to reduce that fare by about 50%! After exploring the 7 different varieties of single ticket available you might want to plump for the standard advanced single tied to the for the 06:10 (arr. York 10:29) and another standard advanced single for the journey back home by the 19:35 (arr. Reading 23:18). You get 9 hours in York and pay a total of £46 for the two single tickets! For the sake of completeness it’s only fair to point out that if you only want to explore the NRM and are prepared to leave York on the 18:24 the price of the two singles falls to just £44.
A lot of people will, we fear, either be put of from travelling by rail because their journey seems indecently expensive, or will bite the bullet, travel by rail and pay a lot more than they have to. Sadly it will be those people who don’t shop around using the Internet – amongst whom are those living to a tight budget – who will be hardest hit by the fares ‘simplification’.
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