At last: some good news on the railway. According to a briefing provided by the Department for Transport to the Telegraph, return train fares are to be scrapped in favour of simplified “single-leg” pricing.
This should see many one-way fares almost halved.
The transport secretary, Mark Harper, is expected to confirm the move in a lecture to the railway industry on Tuesday.
But how will removing the many anomalies in the fares system affect your journey plans? These are the key questions and answers.
What’s the problem with train fares?
Many people feel they are too high, and this move should address some of those concerns. More broadly, the rail industry (now almost completely controlled by the government once again), is hobbled with an anachronous fares system.
It was devised in the 20th century by British Rail for entirely different times. Rules have been “baked in” since privatisation that typically make an off-peak single ticket almost the same as a return.
Between Durham and London, for example, the off-peak single costs £154, with a return costing only £1 more.
A day return from Brighton to London is £20.40, just 10p more expensive than a single.
This disparity is a deterrent to people who want to make journeys on a one-way basis (eg Brighton to London to Southampton to Brighton) or wish to combine a good-value fixed Advance ticket going out with a flexible off-peak journey on the return leg.
There is also some evidence that it leads to fare evasion, with people repeatedly using return halves of tickets that have not been checked.
What will happen?
There will just be three kinds of tickets:
- Anytime singles, which can be used on any train and are generally expensive
- Off-peak singles, which is what this measure is largely about
- Advance singles, which as always are for specific trains and sold more cheaply than off-peak tickets
Does single-leg pricing happen anywhere at present?
In a very limited way on the East Coast main line. An experimental scheme with LNER between London, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh has seen “single-leg” pricing on off-peak tickets for the past two years.
The move has proved extremely popular – and, inadvertently, has created even more anomalies. From Durham to London, for example, a one-way traveller should rationally buy a Newcastle-London ticket for £79 even though it is for a further…
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