Friday, January 20, 2006

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

Just when you thought trains in Britain couldn't get any more expensive......
When will someone have the guts to say enough is enough- renationalise the network and introduce kilometer/mile based pricing- the system which operates all over mainland Europe. I've just spent a week travelling round Bulgaria by rail. Go there, try out their system- and then come back and experience the 'delights' of Britain's railways. Then try and tell me with a straight face that this country is a 'first-world' and Bulgaria is 'backward'.

Fares will treble as cheap tickets go
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
RAIL fares will more than treble for some journeys under government plans to scrap saver tickets and give private operators greater freedom to set prices,
The Times has learnt.
Passengers who are unable to book ahead will have to pay a substantial premium even if they travel during off-peak hours. Many will be forced to buy a standard open return ticket, which, in the case of the London to Manchester route, will cost £202, compared with the saver price of £57.10.
Train companies have persuaded ministers that they will require less subsidy and attract more passengers if they are given more control over fares.
The price cap on saver fares was one of the few guarantees given to passengers by the former Conservative Government when the railways were privatised a decade ago. Savers rose initially by inflation minus 1 per cent each year and are currently capped at inflation plus 1 per cent. In real terms, the price of savers has been frozen since 1995, while other fares have risen by up to four times the rate of inflation. Savers are available on all longer-distance routes but can only be used outside peak hours. Train companies have already reduced the number of services on which savers can by used by stretching their definition of the peak. Yet more than 50 million trips were still made on saver tickets last year.
The companies argue that they offer even cheaper tickets bookable up to 6pm the night before. But numbers for these are very restricted and passengers are forced to stick to specific trains for both outward and return journeys.
Passenger groups yesterday wrote to Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, urging him to keep the saver.
Brian Cooke, chairman of London Travelwatch, wrote: “The saver provides discounted turn-up-and-go travel for people who are unable to commit in advance to travel on a particular train. We do not accept that all such passengers are in a financial position to pay what can sometimes be a very high full fare.”
Mr Cooke said the abolition of savers would force passengers on long-distance routes covered by more than one operator to buy two advance purchase tickets or face paying the full fare.
He said: “We are concerned that train companies will abuse their power to set prices if the saver is scrapped. We could end up with a railway open only to rich people.”
The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) admitted that there would be price increases if the saver were abolished but said that the extra flexibility would also allow operators to offer more discounted advance-purchase tickets. David Mapp, Atoc’s commercial director, said that savers “could exacerbate overcrowding” because companies were unable to set higher prices to deter people from travelling on the busiest off-peak trains.
“Unlike season tickets, there is no economic justification for savers because they are being offered to customers who are using their income on a leisure journey rather than going to the theatre or buying CDs.”
But Chris Irwin, chairman of the South West Passenger Forum, said that many people used savers for essential journeys. “It is sometimes necessary to make a journey at short notice, such as to attend a funeral. The train has to compete with the car, but the car leaves whenever you are ready. The demise of cheap walk-up fares would be a great loss.”

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