The six biggest train rip-offs!
Travelling by train? Watch out for these rip-offs....
I really hate paying for train fares. They always seem unnecessarily expensive. In fact, I am off to Liverpool in a couple of weeks and the amount I am having to fork out for my two hour journey is simply outrageous!
However, the actual price of a train ticket is just one of the many ways train travel can rip you off. Here, I’m going to highlight some of the biggest ones.
Online booking fees
Taking the number one slot is online booking fees. These days it’s so easy to book your train ticket online. But whatever you do, don’t get caught out by booking fees!
The Trainline, for example, is probably one of the most well-known websites for booking train tickets. However, it has the audacity to charge a £1 booking fee for the service. It might not sound like much, but why pay it when plenty of other websites offer the same service absolutely free?
And the charges don’t end there. If you pay by credit card on The Trainline, you’ll be charged a further £3.50 (per transaction). Outrageous!
So make sure you boycott The Trainline and book elsewhere. After all, there are plenty of other options.
For a start, you could look at the East Coast website which allows you to buy tickets to all destinations in the UK without charging a booking fee. It also sometimes gives extra discounts. Alternatively, you could simply book through which ever rail company you’ll be travelling with as these generally won’t charge you a fee either.
Travelling first-class is a luxury only a few of us can afford. However, if you are planning to travel first-class: watch out! Earlier this year, rail companies were accused of selling first-class tickets for services with no first-class coaches.
According to researchers at Which?, Southeastern rail services were offering first-class tickets on the high-speed route from London to Dover Priory and charging 30% more than a standard ticket. However, there was in fact no first-class seating!
First Capital Connect (FCC) was also found to be charging 63% more for single first-class fares between Luton Airport Parkway station and Wimbledon in South-West London. This direct line has no first-class service, but has declassified first-class carriages where standard ticket-holders can sit.
So you might want to think about whether travelling in first-class is really worth it!
This isn’t the only thing that bugs me about first-class, however. I also get frustrated when I have to stand in an incredibly packed carriage on my commute to work, while the first-class carriage nextdoor is completely empty. Why can’t all carriages be available to everyone on commuter routes at peak times? Let’s get rid of this first-class nonsense!
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If you’re buying your ticket in advance and want to avoid the horrendous queues for the ticket office so often seen at stations, be wary of ticket machines. In some cases, passengers are unable to use these machines to buy off-peak tickets in advance. As a result, they either have to buy a peak ticket at a higher price, or wait until the peak period has finished – which is hardly convenient and could result in a rushed buy and missing the train.
What’s more, if you’re trying to use a discount card to buy tickets in advance, you may also find you can’t on ticket machines. For example, quite recently, I discovered I couldn’t use the ticket machine to buy a ticket in advance with my Gold Card discount. So I ended up waiting until I was just about to board my train to get the ticket I wanted.
So if you are planning to buy your tickets in advance, you may be better off facing the queue at the ticket office to ensure you’re getting the best price.
Continuing with this theme, peak times themselves are a bit of a rip-off. We all know that travelling during peak time costs considerably more than travelling off-peak. However, according to research by Which?, some train companies are now charging peak rates well outside busy travel times.
For example, some operators, such as East Coast Trains and Virgin Trains, begin evening peak services mid-afternoon (3pm). For East Coast Trains, this means the evening peak time lasts for four hours. In comparison, other operators, such as Chiltern and Merseyrail, don’t have an evening peak time at all.
What’s more, East Coast trains have different morning peak times depending on which ticket you have. So generally-speaking, the morning peak time ends at 10.05. However, if you’re travelling first-class, it ends at 07.59, if you have an off-peak day return or travelcard, it ends at 09.54, and if you have a super off-peak card, it ends at 11.17!
Meanwhile, other train operators, such as Merseyrail, end their peak morning period at 09.30. Confused? Yes, so am I.
So if you are travelling by train, make sure you check peak times carefully on the route you’re travelling (and which ticket you have) so you don’t end up paying more than you really need to. It's a hassle but it's far better than getting caught out and being forced to pay full price because you're travelling with an off-peak ticket at a peak time.
Recent question on this topic
- btzs09 asks:
I find it a tad irritating that splitting a ticket can sometimes cost significantly less than buying one direct train ticket. If I want to get the best deal on my ticket, do I really have to spend ages trying to figure out how many times I can split my ticket to save money? (Generally, the more you split, the more you save.)
For example, if I was travelling from Birmingham to Basingstoke, I’d have to fork out £56.40 (travelling off-peak and one way). But by splitting my ticket at Banbury, I’d save £30.50. That’s because a single ticket from Birmingham to Banbury costs £13.90, while a ticket from Banbury to Basingstoke costs £13 - so in total, I’d be paying £26.90.
This a great saving and it may be worth the effort of trying to figure it out. But I still think it's a bit of a rip-off that I have to pay £30 more to simply get one direct ticket when I am travelling on exactly the same route I'd be travelling on if I split my ticket.
Single costs the same (or nearly)
Similarly, why do most single tickets cost nearly the same as a return? If, for whatever reason, I only require a single ticket, why do I have to pay almost the same as someone who is effectively doing that journey twice? It’s unfair and a waste of my money!
For example, if I were to travel from London Waterloo East to Ashford on a Saturday, it would cost me £22.20 for a single ticket. Yet if I wanted to travel back to Waterloo the same day, I would only have to pay 10p more! And if I returned a week later, I would pay £25.40 – so just £3.20 more. Ridiculous!
If you have an opinion on this topic, why not start a discussion in our Travel & Holiday group about it?