Rail companies are taking passengers for a ride, selling first class tickets for standard trips. That’s like buying a VIP pass for a gig and getting a spot in the sweaty mosh pit.
Some people are lucky enough to travel first class (not that the service is that impressive in the UK). For them, the journey home is the best part of the day. But if you’re a first class virgin, be careful – you might be duped into paying premium for a regular seat.
Rail companies won’t tell you their trains don’t have ‘luxury’ seats, but they’re quite happy to let you empty your wallet on premium tickets anyway. And these tickets could cost as much as 63% more than standard class.
What does this look like in practice? Sarah Dennis of Which? Home recounts an example:
“Travelling from Luton Airport Parkway to Wimbledon with First Capital Connect (FCC) costs £13.40 for a standard anytime single ticket. First class is £21.40, despite the fact that both tickets offer access to the very same seats. Paying half as much has absolutely no advantage.”
FCC’s excuse is that you can choose to travel first class for part of your journey. It turns out that the most convenient way to sit in a first class seat is to get off at St Pancras, take a (no doubt luxurious) 12 minute tube ride to Vauxhall and then jump on the overground again. That’s definitely worth the extra cost!
We also found Southeastern Railways offering first class tickets for journeys between St Pancras and Dover Priory. Which train should you catch for the most direct route? A High Speed one that – you guessed it – has phantom first class seats.
Southeastern claims the ticket provides access to the mainline first class service, but customers would need to travel to another London station and catch a train that takes 40 minutes longer for this privilege. Oh joy. Maybe the ticket includes a personal assistant to carry my bags on the tube and then entertain me for all that extra time? No? Rats.
Rail companies of the UK, it’s time to get your act together. Only sell first class tickets when we actually have the opportunity to travel in luxury – oh, and sort out the delays while you’re at it.