please empty your brain below

I only pity the Wellingborough residents who don't know about split ticketing... £8.20 return at those times from Bedford.

The trouble is that it's only simple when you fix some of the variables. Add a Network Railcard (why wouldn't you have one if you did several of these a year).

And ignoring advance fares is fine for an article but in real life it's madness (and I too hate having to catch train x) after all I'm going to Glasgow fairly soon for £45 and last time I went to Newcastle was £27 return.

(Bath you can do via Didcot for ten quid off though you do then need to get the xx30 out of Paddington or get off and on)

All depends how much time you want to spend looking for cheaper / slightly more restrictive tickets.

PS - If you have a Network Railcard, all the more reason to split at Bedford as you then get a third off the London Bedford portion (though min 13 fare applies on a Friday) making the total 21.20.

My parents live between Newark and Nottingham. Booking advanced fares (all I can afford), East Midlands trains to Nottingham has always been cheaper than East Coast trains to Newark.

I've found that the 'restrictive' tickets are differently restricted depending on what TOC you go with.

i.e. a £7.50 return ticket to Brighton (from London) using Southern services puts you on a specific train, but the same amount of money on a FCC train lets you go at anytime...

Roll on a nationwide Oyster card system where no tickets anywhere are never needed again, and fair and even pricing across the whole network is in operation! (yeah, right...)

Yes, I know there are cheaper ways of doing things.

Yes, I know advance fares are often a bargain, if you're willing/able to specify journey times, and if know where you're going in advance.

Yes, I know Network/Gold Cards cut costs for some journeys, if you have one.

Yes, I know there are ticketing quirks which allow you to save money on certain journeys.

But for the purposes of this map I needed a level playing field, so walk-up one-ticket returns it is.

Wow. Oxford's up over £20 for a return now? That's seen some serious fare inflation recently.

I suspect it's the turn up and go bit that's going to get harder to do. Most of those comparisons with other countries that appear cheaper are compared to advance fares that are tied to a train. All TGV services are booked in advance. All ICE services are booked in advance. And any French rail service that's *not* the TGV (or an RER around Paris) makes our train frequencies here look like a luxury.

Excellent work DG.

I wonder if "buy ticket at station on the day in 'peak' time fares" would show the same distribution?

My perception is that is where the real inequalities come in.

I'm not sure of your methodology for choosing return times, but if you go from Marylebone, on the 12.20 and return on eg: the 1951, you can get all the way to Birmingham Moor Street for £19.50 return.

That's really interesting - and must've taken a fair bit of week, you geek, you. :-)

Bizarrely, I've had a train-costs thing today as well, although mine's far weirder and far more of a rip-off.

Battling against the system to get bargains is all very well for people who know train fares work and how to get the best of them. Anyone who has tried to book international rail travel by computer will know that getting the best fare required dedication and skill.

But DG's analysis is for real people who just want to use the damn things. You don't get cheaper petrol if you use your car at certain times of day, or get to travel on a toll road for nothing if you book to go through the barrier at a certain time. The car is the competitor.

These advance purchase tickets for short-to-medium distance journeys are a completely artificial way that rail companies use in order to fiddle how revenue is divided up between them. The seat on a particular train costs them just as much whether I buy the ticket now or yesterday. The train is not running full, and even if it did, they wouldn't care. So why throw money away by basing the price on when the ticket is purchased?

Max... Actually, you do get cheaper travel on the M6 Toll if you travel at off peak times.

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Is this wobbly northwest bit down to the Metropolitan line?

Audrey - I don't think the Met can cause the wobble, as it is etirely within the yellow ring. It's the money-grabbing EMT's high off-peak fares on Fridays which seems to e the culprit - itself a legacy of Network SE only going as far as the limit of electrification at Bedford - in other directiosn NSE goes as far as Dorset and Norfolk.

I assume the sub-£20 fare to Moor Street was not considered as Euston was considered the "most appropriate" terminus for Birmingham - journey planners tend to show that route as it is slightly faster, but as you can see £20 will only get you to Milton Keynes on that route.

DG - the map would be a little clearer if you hadn't used more contrasty colours for the £30 and £40 rings.

dg writes: Point taken - so I've darkened the £40 colour to try to improve contrast.

Max - yes the M6 Toll (and Dratford Tunnel) have an off peak rate, but DG's point was that you can't get a special price by booking ahead for a specific time.

Excellent work. It would be interesting to compare with similar maps for say other cities too (e.g. Birmingham). I've a feeling you can go a lot further for your money outside the south east.

Good stuff! I'm not convinced East Midlands should hang their head in shame. McNulty reports that they have by far the highest passenger loadings, so some passengers clearly love them. Maybe this is achieved through good Advance offers?

For those looking for bargain fares I've found the German Railways website is very helpful (so long as you've got a German dictionary to hand for the few bits that aren't translated into English already).

Very interesting. As someone forced to use trains often I obsess over ticket costs. The issue of off peak pricing is a thorny one.

In the last year I've done a lot of London-Newcastle trips on a Friday night. That's £110 a return (FYI, it's only £114 return to Edinburgh, a good hour+ north of Newcastle), on some very very busy trains, with many poor sods sitting on the floor. Trains pre-6pm are almost empty. I've looked at that journey every which way, and I've never been able to make it cheaper. The gent who paid £27 return, I can only assume, was travelling at some obscure time. Unfortunately, for those of us with 9-6 jobs, going somewhere at 11am (or whenever) isn't practical.

As for the poster who finds it cheaper to go to Nottingham when visiting is Newark/Grantham parents, I have the opposite issue. £70 return to Nottingham to visit my parents on EMT, or 2x £15-20 advance singles to Grantham on ECT.

@Logistical I would imagine EMT has high passenger loadings as they've got that part of the country sewn up and many people want to go there from London. Their service is overpriced, slow and unreliable. Many a Friday night I've sat on a delayed train, surrounded by rubbish that hasn't been cleared from the last journey, wondering what my money was actually spent on.

Rant over ;)

Yesterdays Evening Standard headline "Millions to Lose Cheap Rail Fares".

Might I suggest that most fares are too expensive, and rather than increase off peak fares, should we not be reducing peak fares in order to reduce passenger clumping.

AC Split tickets: I live in Corby and needed to get to a funeral in Bridgewater, fare just short of £150. As I have a season ticket to Bedford I decided to check the fare from there, £54!

Logistical, I travel Corby to Bedford on most days despite it being with EMT not because. As Peterkin says there is little alternative.

I'm surprised by East Mids Trains, the interesting thing as far as I remember is the disparity between Advanced tickets going north and Advanced tickets going south. I know a friend trying to find advanced travel to Bath a few years ago, struggled to find an advanced ticket for less than £30, while an advanced to Sheffield from St Pancras could be had for just over £10.

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