please empty your brain below

When travelling at the weekend, is it really right that the train company sells you a train ticket when some, or most, of the journey is undertaken on a replacement bus service? National Express (at least the bit that runs the coaches) must be raking it in.

Rather than pay Eurostar prices, a day trip fare to Calais is £25 from London by train to Dover and ferry to Calais - through ticket is available from Victoria or London Bridge still I think.

I suspect that at last those Brighton and Hastings prices are Super Off-Peak which is OK at weekends but quite restrictive on week days (can't travel before 10, can't leave London between 1645 and 1915). An ordinary off peak return might be more. (I only know that from Newhaven Super o/p is 13.50, o/p 20.40)

When rail franchises are awarded the company that's going to cost the government least* generally wins. Since costs are generally fixed, the company that wins is the one that raises fares as much as is allowable** while minimising the amount of profits it allocates to itself, such that the subsidy the company asks the government for in its bid is as small as possible.

The bottom line is most of the money from the companies raising prices actually ends up in government coffers, or rather goes towards reducing the outlay of the government on rail subsidy, or even **shock horror** on improving services.

(* rail travel is massively subsidised. Very few services are paid for by ticket prices alone, or anything like it, once you include subsidy to Network Rail)

(** allowable fare increases are agreed with the government as part of the bidding process - Saver Returns/Off Peak Returns in particular are regulated to a percent or two above inflation)

Hmmm....I tend to buy tickets one or two days in advance for "spontaneous" leisure journey..not quite the same as "turn up and go", but almost (and that way one is forewarned of engineering works, etc). Did a day trip to Lichfield yesterday (a lovely place): £35 return (but could have been £24 had I not another hour's journey out of London to home to figure into the equation afterwards). What annoys me then is that most places south (and especially south-east) of London have no advance bargain fares available: it is possible to travel to Edinburgh by train from London more cheaply than one can to Canterbury.

And don't complain about going by slow train to Birmingham (or Milton Keynes): they could only be more pleasant than the cramped, overheated and generally nauseous Virgin Trains faster alternative.

Shoeburyness (poss more like 40-45 miles rather than 50) might be your bargain destination: £10 for an off peak weekday return I think.

Perhaps one reason for different fares for similar distances is that some places are served by more than one company, Birmingham being a prime example. When I visit London I always use Chiltern Trains from Snow Hill to Marylebone. Not as fast as Virgin but their cheapest walk on fare is just £18 return, off peak. So for anyone conteplating a journey beyond Brum (eg Lichfield or Worcester) this might be an option if you have plenty of time and can travel off peak, not everyone I know.

All those people who say we should travel to Glasgow, Belfast, mainland Europe & beyond in Europe by train instead of more runways & Heathrow & Stansted need their heads examined. I'd love to go by train, but cannot afford to. So I fly. Long live budget airlines. The day train fares match budget airlines I'll go on them. Until then it's Easyjet every time!
Stelios for Transport Minister!

Hmmm. Maybe Boris might have some reason to be rubbing his hands at all this, after all.

Remember that, for every Londoner put off from travelling to Liverpool, there's got to be at least one Liverpudlian put off from coming to London.

Hurrah for Boris

And they're taking the restuarant car off the Norwich trains...

Rabbler: nonsense, basically. You are doing what the papers do, and comparing advance-booked, plane-specific, non-refundable airline tickets with open, flexible walk-up train tickets.

Just as an exercise, I checked easyjet and National Rail Enquiries for a journey from London to Glasgow going out next Tuesday, 25th, and back the following day.

The cheapest easyjet could do was £141.93 return from "London Luton", paying by debit card, or £4 more by credit card. Oh, and don't forget the £12 extra return if you want to check in a bag. And that's by being careful not to pay for the pre-selected travel insurance, "carbon offsetting" or "speedy boarding", and scrolling through all the guff about hotels and car-hire. Plus add about £20 to get to Luton and back, that stupid shuttle bus as well, and a fiver or so in Glasgow.

NRE directed me to the Virgin Trains site, once I'd selected my trains, and the cheapest fare was £59 return, Euston to Glasgow Central, out Tues morning, back Wed evening, train specific. No card fees, no insurance, no hotels, no car hire (I went right to the bit before you hit "buy"). And reserved seats in the price, so no "speedy boarding" required, and no baggage charges. And city centre to city centre. And travelling by train is just more civilised (yes, even on Virgin). And you can get to Euston 10 minutes (or even less) before departure time and still board at your leisure. Even if you wanted the walk-up, flexible ticket, it was £102.90 return, still about £40 less than the orange mob, and with that you can go out on the West Coast and back East Coast, if you like.

Kenromford, you're my kind of man!

Two things: 1) I hope dg doesn't mind advertising, so...hello! Does nobody use thetrainline? I went to Suffolk last week (100 miles) for £18 return. OK, it was two singles on specific trains, but an open return would be £39 and a single on the day £36. And I could have booked those tickets up until the day before, thanks to ticket collection at the station, invaluable if you're going from a London terminus.

2) Can't get rid of the Scousers that easily, RogerW. The last time I looked (quite a while ago I admit) it was cheaper to get a return to London than it was to get one from London.

Don't use thetrainline - use any of the train companies' own sites. They're all based on thetrainline* and sell exactly the same range of tickets, but don't charge booking/credit card/collection fees.

(* except National Express East Coast's, which is a custom design and much much better, and again, doesn't charge fees, and can sell you any train ticket, not just their own)

Chloe: I find Trainline usually has card fees and/or booking fees on top, whereas train company sites, even like Virgin's where the functionality is provided by Trainline, don't. And on most sites (Virgin and NXEC for example) you can book from anywhere to anywhere, just like Trainline, not just on their own services. I've just done a trial booking from Plymouth to Exeter on the NXEC site to check this.

...while I was playing at trains I find Mr Thant has posted virtually the same thing! Sorry!

Peak fares are the real shockers though. Earlier this week I had to travel from London to Wakefield and back. That costs £206 standard class. Glad I wasn't paying!

Of course, a lot of rail fare increases are inexcusable, and inevitably many passengers will end up paying far more (even in real terms) for exactly the same service, perhaps with a few delays, overcrowded trains and rail replacement buses thrown in.

However, further to the answers of previous respondents, I often find cheap fares on websites, particularly if you book in advance. For example, it is possible to get a single ticket from Liverpool Street to Norwich for £6, and that's leaving on an off-peak train on Monday at around 11am, so it's only a couple of days in advance. If you have a railcard, you'll even get a further 34\\% off the fare, making it £3.95. Strangely, however, a similar offering isn't available between Waterloo and Portsmouth Harbour, so the fare you pay seems to depend as much on where you actually want to go. This also illustrates the complexity of the railways' ticketing system, which I think still needs to be simplified. At least some progress has been made with this with reducing the immense number of tickets available.

If I may, there's also a website which offers tips on saving money on rail fares. The URL is posted below.

You'll probably find its cheaper to book a Network Card ticket to Colchester and then a separate ticket Colchester to Norwich.

Check out: for good advice on how to get round the rules.

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