Rip Off Britain

Tomorrow I make another return trip from Nottingham to London for a business meeting. I've been doing this quite a bit recently and have found a way of saving money on the train tickets.

Buying online in advance should save you money, right? Well, let's say we want to travel next Tuesday on the same train I am on tomorrow. As you can see below the cheapest return is £73

To me, this is expensive. I remember you could turn up on the day and travel for about £40 return. All of this is off peak of course. But what's this "click here for singles from £6"? It might seem perverse but you can save money by buying two singles (didn't returns used to be cheaper?). As you can see below I've got two singles on the same trains for £25. Almost a third the cost of a return.

Why? Well, the obvious difference is that the return is "flexi" and the singles aren't. With the return, as I understand it, I'm not necessarily restricted to the trains specified above. Big deal though. I know which trains I want and don't want to pay three times as much for the luxury of changing my mind.

Next time you buy a train ticket online look for the singles!


    • avatar
    • Anura
    • Mon 13 Feb 2006 05:32 PM

    I remember when I was 18 I met my sister in the UK and we travelled from London to Penzance. Same deal - two singles were way cheaper than a return!

    On the way back, we broke the journey in several places. We managed to get as far as Brighton before we were stopped and made to buy the correct ticket. Of course, we could plead stupidity as tourists.

    But I always wonder how, with pricing like this, anyone is expected to be attracted to public/mass transport. No wonder the roads are clogged all the time.

    • avatar
    • Craig
    • Tue 14 Feb 2006 02:59 AM

    Kind of an opposite story from me!

    I used to catch the train occasionally to work, a trip of about 40 miles. A return ticket was about £6 at the time. One day I only wanted a single as I was going back to my friends house that evening. The lady at the kiosk told me that was "£6 please". "No, single please" I said. "That is a single" she happily informed me. I checked the next time I bought a return and the return was 25p more!

  1. I do a lot of travelling in Japan and I am constantly surprised by the way the system is organised out there. Tokyo is supposed to be the most expensive city in the world, yet travel is considerably cheaper than in the UK. A journey that would cost about 25 pounds here, would cost about 5 out there. (For example, Narita Airport to Ueno - a journey of about 40km. Cheapest fare is Y980.)

    Inside the city itself, travel is, on average, around Y170 (85p). Trains run on time, and are imaculately clean.

    Yet here in the UK we put up with shoddy rail service. Officious and basically useless staff. And as you've already pointed out, exhorbitant and confusing prices. It's all about money first, service later.

    Yes, it's definitely Rip-Off Britain. And no matter how much Joe Public complains nothing gets done about it.

    A year or so ago, most train companies decided to re-do their schedule. I live in Wimbledon, and it's a simple run up to Waterloo. After that shake up, my journey time was increased by 4 minutes. Why? Well it gave the company extra "leeway" to say that their trains were arriving on time. About 4 months after teh shakeup they announced that their train puncuality had increased from 92% to 97%. Much song and dance was made of this. When it fact nothing had changed except the scale for which it was measured. In fact if you actually used a stop watch, trains were actually taking longer to complete the same journey. Back to the same speeds which they had back in the 1950's.

    Sorry to get on the soapbox, but this really annoys me. It doesn't take much to give a good service. But people keep putting money first.

    A bit like Domino development. Service should always come first.

  2. What I don't get is the price difference depending on which train you take. I mean, you pay for transport from point A to point B. That's it. Unless there's some special service or entertainment on certain trains, the price should be the same.

    Nice incentive to take public transportation just to get ripped off. Not!

    • avatar
    • Dave W
    • Tue 14 Feb 2006 04:12 AM

    I remember back in the 90s that if you wanted to travel peak-time from Fleet in Hampshire to Woking, it was much much cheaper to buy a ticket to Farncombe (some 20 miles further away) and just get off the train at Woking.

    Why? Farncombe isn't between Fleet and London, whereas Woking is.

    Southwest Trains then caught on to everyone "abusing" their ridiculous pricing system, and fined those they caught.

    • avatar
    • Phil
    • Tue 14 Feb 2006 04:46 AM

    You guys have nothing on us here in Australia. Check this story out:


    I drive to work these days so it doesn't affect me but the train system in Melbourne is crap. I did some work for Connex (French company who took over running our trains a few years ago) managing a desktop rollout across the whole system in 2004 and it was a real eye-opener to see how they operate.

    We have the Commonwealth Games next month and it's going to be a scary proposition, public transport-wise.

    I've been on trains in London, Madrid, Tokyo, China, Peru and Bangkok and ours are definitely the worst, reliability-wise. The only thing I can say about your story, Jake, is that £73 seems like an awful lot of money for a 3.5hr round trip. Can you fly there?

    The first time I caught the tube was from Heathrow to London, I didn't think it was expensive or bad. And I also used it to get around London and no problems there either.

    • avatar
    • Craig
    • Tue 14 Feb 2006 04:58 AM

    Following on the service line - I went skiing in Canada the last 2 years, and the difference in attitudes is quite astonishing. Admittedly, I never got the train over there, but the whole attitude of people over there is fantastic - nothing is ever too much trouble.

    Both times when I've arrived back in the airport here in the UK I could almost feel the change in attitude (I was going to say wash) creep over me. Ick.

    • avatar
    • p'ed off
    • Tue 14 Feb 2006 05:55 AM

    ...and what really turns the knife is the fact that even though you're paying an extortion amount for the journey, you're not even guaranteed to be able to physically get onto the train, let alone get a seat...

    When I used to (attempt) to catch the peak train from Kingston upon Thames to Waterloo quite often the trains would arrive completely packed - not even any room to stand. All you could do was wait for the next one.

    In the train companies defence though, at least they've devised a plan to reduce congestion on the trains... they're going to put the prices up to encourage people to use others means of transport!

    I'm so angry it hurts!

    • avatar
    • Jerry Carter
    • Tue 14 Feb 2006 08:23 AM

    And to think, I've been wishing Honda would help put in some light rail to Columbus for their factory workers (so I could catch a ride as well). Of course, then it would be managed by COTA, which already manages to screw the bussing up at every turn (no pun intended).

    I think Dragon unwittingly higlighted the difference. No mass transit workers unions in Japan (least I don't expect so when you look at how the Japanese run Toyota and Honda). Everywhere I've run into a workers union of some sort, it seems to be money first, service last. I'm sorry that's a bit of a generalisation, but I'm scratching my head for a case where I have seen evidence to the contrary.

    In any event, thanks for the tip Jake. I may need to take advantage of it yet.

  3. Jerry,

    Yep. I think it must be a union thing. There are loads of attempts to force strikes on us (the consumers) by them (the workers). Case in point - {Link} - the Unions are angry that people are being put onto other jobs because their life has become easier.

    In actual fact there are Unions in Japan and yes they do hold strikes occasionally. However their striking hours are usually between 12midnight and 5am. Why? Well it would harm their own industry if they imposed their will on the consumers, so it's done as a point towards the management.

    • avatar
    • Axel
    • Sun 19 Feb 2006 01:54 AM

    Here in Germany a lot of people complain about the train system. I've allways had the impression that train system is one of the things that are actually working quite fine here, compared with other countries.

    London- Nottingham are 200 km.

    It costs £73 pounds. (1 Euro = £0.68614)

    It takes 3 hours.

    Hannover - Cologne are 300 km.

    It costs 100 Euro (return ticket included) -> £68.6.

    It takes 2:44 hours

    Its 100 km (50%) more. Its cheaper and one arrives earlier.

    Hannover-Berlin is even faster -> 300 km in 1:32

    And the best thing is:

    I can buy a special ticket for 200 Euro a year (Bahn Card). With this ticket I pay only the half for all tickets.

    So I get 300 km with return ticket for 50 Euro.

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Written by Jake Howlett on Mon 13 Feb 2006

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