News that the Rail Delivery Group is going to simplify and reduce cross-country rail fares will be welcomed by all those who travel across more than one rail franchise.
Few would doubt that the current system is in a mess and needs a drastic overhaul. And why would they, in a country whose national population is 64 million, there are estimated to be no less than 16 million fares! That’s one for every four citizens.
As part of its efforts to streamline this crazy state of affairs, the RDG has promised to carry out a trial – starting next May. So far so good, until you look more closely at where the trial is taking place, as it’s planned to ‘initially benefit people travelling between Scotland and south-west England’.
Now we wouldn’t call ourselves transport experts but we couldn’t help thinking that the trial may not involve that many people. Unlike, say, the London to East Coast Route or the London to South West England route, both of which carry millions of passengers per year.
The current hodge podge of fares can be traced back to the 1990s when, in an effort to make the national train service more efficient, running the regional rail services was handed over to the newly created train operating companies (TOCs).
To say that this has only been a limited success would be stretching it as savvy train travelers found it cheaper to split their journey into several legs and buy single tickets that covered each leg. This was deemed to be more efficient than the old British Rail days when buying one ticket would suffice.
The holder of the record number of tickets bought for one journey must surely go to ‘Jonny’, a football fan from Newcastle who bought no fewer than 56 separate tickets in an effort to support his team when they played away in Oxford. Somewhat bizarrely, his total saving was, er, £56.
Unfortunately, and despite his canniness, his team lost.