If, as a long-suffering rail passenger, you read a headline urging travellers to “ignore” this weekend’s nationwide rise in fares, I don’t blame you for moving swiftly on.
But perhaps you might spare me a few minutes to explain my thesis. First, the background. From Sunday morning, 5 March, regulated rail fares will rise by 5.9 per cent. In this context “regulated” covers a range of “walk-up” fares that you can buy at any booking office a few minutes before travel: season tickets, journeys in and out of major cities and longer-distance off-peak fares.
The effect will be predictably infuriating for many travellers. Between Brighton and London Victoria, the full one-way fare rises by almost £2; passengers from Winchester to London Waterloo will pay an extra £2.50; and the painfully expensive 14-minute, 24-mile hop between Swindon and Didcot Parkway rises from £28 to an astonishing £29.70.
Yet these are all peak Anytime fares that in the current environment look increasingly ridiculous. Exactly the people they are targeted at – higher-earning commuters – are increasingly able to be flexible. Many of these travellers can now choose to adjust their travel times to avoid the punitive peaks; or talk to colleagues online rather than in person; or simply travel on fewer days. A good number of freed-from-convention-by-Covid professionals I know are deploying a combination of all three.
Workers who earn less than average have their own choices, for example to drive with colleagues. On that Swindon-Didcot journey they will take three times longer (the train averages an impressive 103mph), but could probably cover the ground for about one-10th of the fare.
The train operators know all this, and that is why they are quietly carrying out the much needed fare reform under the radar. The weapon: Advance tickets that are sold any time up to five minutes before departure. Since so many of us now buy online, instead of walking up and waiting in a booking office queue, we are buying on the walk to the station (taking care, I trust, to avoid obstacles and vehicles).
On Wednesday this week I made a short-notice trip from London to Leeds, out at 7am and back at 4pm. That is exactly the kind of journey on which rail firms would once have impolitely collected a ludicrous £291 return from passengers – or, more likely, the…
Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at The Independent Travel…