Amidst all the opprobrium that gets hurled at Britain’s railway network, there is one truth that is universally acknowledged: the cost of travel for groups of people often compares unfavourably with the car.
The problem is one of efficiency: a car costs more or less the same to run whether there is one person or five inside it (unless one of your passengers is really fat). On the other hand, the train companies (and bus companies, and any public transport really) expect everyone other than infants to hold a ticket for travel. When travelling on undiscounted tickets, a journey can become prohibitively expensive, even for two people.
Recognising this, in recent years the TOCs have introduced a bewildering amount of special offers for small groups. Depending on your destination, you can choose from Merseyrail’s Family Day Ticket, Virgin Group-e, Northern Duo, GroupSave, and probably a whole load more that I’ve missed.
The only truly national discount offering for this market, until now, was the Family & Friends Railcard, which has existed in one form or another since BR days. £30 will get you a card entitling the holder to 1/3 off adult fares, and 60% off child fares, for a whole year. It’s nowhere near as generous as it was under British Rail’s benevolent nationalised monopoly, when kids got a £2 flat fare, but there are still some amazing savings to be had. One example: an Off Peak Return from Liverpool to London is £79.70 for one adult, but with the railcard, two adults and two children can make the same journey for a total of £135.50 – less than the price of two full adult tickets.
Of course, you have to take a least one child with you, and that causes obvious inconvenience. Usually the little brats are not content to just hang around at the station while you go off to the pub or whatever, and you have to drag them round with you. Then they’ll want to stop at McDonalds for a Happy Meal, and then later get an ice cream which will probably drip all over your expensive shoes. Bah.
Luckily, there is now another option for those without a convenient child to hand: the Two Together Railcard (insert small fanfare here) which launched today. For just £30, two named people can get 1/3 off their train fares for leisure travel – effectively, two tickets for 132% of the cost of one ticket. Using the Liverpool-London example again, the Off Peak Return ticket for two people would cost just £105.20 – saving £54.20.
Read the rest of this post »