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Edinburgh-London off-peak rail tickets scrapped in bid to ‘simplify fares’ with new ‘70min flex’ option

Simon Calder’s Travel

Britain’s flagship rail company is trialling a new ticket type that will replace off-peak tickets on key intercity routes on the East Coast main line.

LNER has launched a two-year pilot for a semi-flexible ticket that is designed to provide “wriggle room” for passengers buying advance tickets on trains connecting London King’s Cross with Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh.

For an extra £20 on the advance fare, travellers can buy the right to travel on any train 70 minutes before or 70 minutes after the booked train.

Generally two trains each hour connect Edinburgh and Newcastle with the English capital, giving passengers a choice of five possible services: the booked train, or one of the two immediately before or after it.

LNER believes the innovative new fare will entice more travellers to use trains rather than cars, coaches and planes.

The train operator’s managing director, David Horne, said: “LNER remains at the forefront of rail reform. Simplifying fares is vital in making rail travel more attractive. Customers tell us they find fares confusing.

“This exciting new pilot is the next step in our plans to overhaul complicated and outdated ticketing options and we look forward to hearing feedback from our customers.

“We believe that making fares simpler, smarter, and fairer, while introducing value for money and modern flexibility, will encourage more people to choose to travel by rail, the most sustainable travel choice.”

Data from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators, found one in three travellers for whom rail is an option are deterred because they find it difficult to find the right fare.

Alex Robertson, chief executive at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “The plan to trial demand-based pricing on some LNER routes is a radical change for passengers. Transport Focus strongly supports fares reform and it’s right to trial new ideas to see if they work.

“We look forward to hearing how the trial progresses and will be monitoring that it does indeed deliver better value for money tickets for passengers.”

State-run LNER pioneered the use of “single-leg pricing” to reduce complexity in the fares system.

Only one in nine passengers on the routes linking London with Newcastle, Berwick and Edinburgh currently use off-peak (or super off-peak) tickets. But they are…

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