September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Train operators are changing ticket restrictions and creating ”unfair price rises” as the network takes a step towards a simplified fares system, according to the national rail watchdog Passenger Focus.
From yesterday (18 May) all pre-booked tickets are now called ”Advance” and are available at discounted rates using all railcards (previously some railcards did not apply to advance fares).
But Passenger Focus is now lobbying Virgin Trains, National Express and Cross Country ” and reviewing other operators ” after they altered certain ticket restrictions.
”These changes represent another nail in the coffin for the turn-up-and-go railway with passengers having to pay more if they can”t book ahead or advanced purchase tickets are sold out,” said Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith. ”Passengers tell us in the National Passenger Survey that train tickets represent poor value for money and this is another example of train companies introducing backdoor price rises.”
Virgin Trains plans to restrict the use of Saver tickets on some services, CrossCountry no longer accepts railcards on Saver fares to obtain a further discount at peak times, and National Express East Anglia has hiked up its most expensive fares - Standard Open Returns ” for the second time this year on some routes and barred One Day Travelcards on trains leaving London Liverpool Street between 16.29 and 18.34.
Smith added: ”The effect of banning One Day Travelcards is a 30%+ price increase for many passengers. Yet again, a train company with poor value for money ratings in our National Passenger Survey ” just 36% satisfaction ” is turning the screw on passengers. This is yet more evidence that ”unregulated” prices are under huge pressure as train companies take steps to generate the premiums they have promised government.”
However, Association of Train Operating Companies spokesman told ABTN the watchdog is clouding the issue of fares simplification with price changes, which it says operators have a right to make.
”They are entitled to change fares when they want to within the terms of franchises,” he said, ”the point being very few have done, and it affects a very small proportion of overall fares ” less than 1%.
”One of the great advantages now is that restrictions that did exist on some railcards for advance tickets are gone ” so there are many more advantages now which far outweigh any small disadvantages. Now there is one rule for advance fares.”
UK Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly wrote to Passenger Focus last month saying: ”Less than half [of passengers] consider they are getting good value for money when they undertake a journey. I am determined to remedy that.”
She asked the watchdog to review the fares system, and Passenger Focus has now asked the three operators for clarification on what changes are being implemented.