Rail passengers 'kept in the dark' over ticket deals

Rail passengers are being kept in the dark over cheap ticket deals for the August bank holiday weekend because Network Rail timetables are published too late, according to research by the Rail Passengers Council (RPC).

Network Rail, under the terms of its licence, is supposed to set its timetables at least 12 weeks in advance, meaning that passengers who can book a long time in advance can often pick up good value tickets.

However, RPC research published today has found that timetables are being released as little as one week before the date of travel, meaning that passengers are not able to reserve the cheaper tickets.

Brendan O’Friel, deputy chairman of the Rail Passengers Council, said: “With Network Rail not publishing the timetables for the bank holiday weekend until only a week or two beforehand, passengers are being kept in the dark.

"They can’t plan ahead for their journeys, and even if they are lucky enough to get a ticket, the cheapest fares are not being released so they’re having to pay higher sums to travel during a period of disruption and engineering. If the rail industry wants to move towards airline-style pre-booking, the industry must keep its side of the bargain and make cheap fares available in advance.”

RPC researchers contacted stations on four selected routes – approaching operator websites, telephone lines, the National Rail website and National Rail Enquiries to find out how early tickets could be booked for travel over the bank holiday – and asked a series of questions to find out what information was being given to passengers.

The best book-ahead deals were available on Paddington to Cardiff routes at eight weeks’ advance notice and from Kings Cross to Newcastle at six weeks’ notice but on Euston to Manchester routes, Virgin Value tickets were still not available on 20 August, just one week before the holiday getaway starts.

Another problem highlighted in the RPC’s research was the lack of accurate information from the various sources.

Callers looking to travel from London to Manchester were told that there was engineering work which meant that no cheap tickets were available and were advised to travel with Midland Mainline from St Pancras. But tickets from St Pancras were not released until just two weeks beforehand and callers to the operator’s ticket hotline were being offered the most expensive tickets.


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