We’re lucky if we can find the rules on train tickets and fares, let alone understand them.
Many of you contact us to complain about trains; too crowded, too late, too often cancelled.
But there’s another theme – possibly the most consistent over the years – which is the impenetrable rules that govern ticketing and fares. Only one in three passengers say they fully understand all the ticket types, according to a new government survey.
Train ticket confusion
Why are two singles cheaper than a return? How far in advance is ‘Advance’, and how do I know whether I qualify for ‘super off-peak’ or just ‘off peak’? Why is it cheaper to split a journey on some routes? Why are the National Rail rules written in six-point font?
I’ll share a recent frustrating experience where complex rules cost me dear, as I suspect this will be a familiar story. I bought an Advance ticket from London to Exeter, one-way, for £54 from thetrainline.com. I had to change it to the previous day, at an earlier time, which happened to be much cheaper at £18.50.
I had noted that an administration charge for changing the ticket date and time would apply and was willing to pay the £10. However, it transpired that this was not the only cost of changing the ticket. The rules stated that even if I travelled at a much cheaper time, I wasn’t allowed to pay less than the original amount.
This double penalty meant that the actual cost of changing my ticket would have been £45.50, not £10. And, needless to say, if I had had to switch to a more expensive time, I would still have had to pay the extra charge. A case of ‘heads you win, tails I lose’.
Thetrainline.com’s response is that its site does say this (not in a place I saw at the time, though) and the industry sets the rules.
Rail refunds campaign
Confusion is rife in train fares, but also in the process of claiming a refund if the journey is delayed or cancelled – as 47 million were in 2014.
We have submitted a super-complaint to the rail regulator, calling for train companies to make it easier for you to claim for rail delays. The regulator is already reviewing tickets; recommendations are due in the spring. Passengers have suffered shoddy systems at both ends of the journey for too long.