Trains – and often the lack of them – are dominating the travel headlines. Disputes between rail staff, train operators and the government have been dragging on for eight months, with no sure sign of an end to the strikes.
Ticketing reform is on the agenda, with Scotland soon to start a six-month trial of abolishing peak fares. But at the same time the stress continues, with the East Coast and West Coast main lines simultaneously closed on 18 and 19 February.
Travellers continue to be annoyed by the behaviour of some airlines, while cruise passengers who were told to leave Marella Discovery 2 halfway through a two-week voyage remain vexed.
The travel correspondent of The Independent, Simon Calder, tackled questions on all of these subjects and more.
Q: There has been lots of chat about replacing rail return tickets with two singles. I have a Network Railcard. As you know, there is a £13 minimum fare on weekdays. I can use it for a return trip priced at £20, which comes in at a handy £13.20 with the railcard. But if the ticket changes to £10 each way, the railcard will bring me no benefit. Will this change?
A: For people unfamiliar with the subject: the Network Railcard has been around since 1986. It is for use only in south east England (a weird area that includes King’s Lynn in Norfolk but not Norwich, Worcester but not Swindon and Exeter only if travelling from London Waterloo). Because of all the restrictions the Network Railcard is chiefly of interest for people aged 31-59 who do not qualify for other railcards.
The Network Railcard gives the usual 34 per cent off train travel, but only from 10am onwards from Monday to Friday. Also, as you indicate, on weekdays there is a minimum spend of £13. The aims are to stop people using the card for short-distance commuting, and to incentivise discretionary journeys further afield. But there are anomalies – such as the one you mention, whereby it is worth using the Network Railcard for returns but not single journeys.
The government has the eventual aim of scrapping return tickets and making everything “single-leg pricing” – which, in many cases, will involve sharply reducing the current single fare. After some leaks to friendly press last weekend, ministers were expected to announce a far-reaching overhaul of the ticketing system. In…
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