Robert Hampton

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2nd September 2010

Normally I like it via the back door, but THIS…
Posted by at 8.46pm | 1 response | Trains

Oh, Merseyrail — you lavish me with umbrellas and discounted coffees, and then you go and do something to dispel the warm fuzzies.

From this Sunday, Merseyrail are introducing a new ticket, the Day Saver. This small piece of orange thermally-printed card will give you unlimited off-peak travel on the Northern and Wirral Lines for the princely sum of just £3.20 or £4.40, depending on the area covered (the tickets apparently will use the existing Saveaway zones).

The prices are just 10p cheaper than the equivalent Saveaway ticket, which gives unlimited access not just to Merseyrail Electrics, but also to the City Line, buses and ferries too. Therefore the Day Saver would seem to be quite poor value in comparison.

On the face of it, there doesn’t seem much point to the new ticket. But for Merseyrail, it’s a good idea: although the ticket is just 10p cheaper, 100% of the revenue stays with the company instead of being dispersed among various far-flung public transport providers, so overall Merseyrail get more money per ticket.

So far, so good, BUT while Merseyrail give with one hand, the other hand takes away. At the same time as introducing this new ticket, they are removing all Off Peak Day Return (CDR) fares for journeys within their network. Because the new Day ticket is priced zonally, and the old fares aren’t, some people will find themselves paying more for their journeys, in what is effectively a back door price rise.

The effect on ticket prices varies depending on the journey being made. Some journeys will cost the same amount as before, but others will increase. In at least one case it will actually cost less. In some cases the Anytime Day Return becomes the cheapest fare available (and one hopes that ticket office staff will correctly offer the most appropriate fare). For those of you not yet asleep, here are some statistics for random sample journeys which I picked out:

Journey Current CDR New cheapest fare %age increase
Hall Road to Hunts Cross £3.25 £3.20 Day Saver -1%
Chester to Liverpool £4.40 £4.40 Day Saver 0%
Hooton to Liverpool £3.20 £3.65 Anytime Return 14%
Southport to Blundellsands £3.75 £4.40 Day Saver 17%
West Kirkby to Liverpool £3.55 £4.20 Anytime Return 18%

(all price information obtained from the National Rail Journey Planner)

The company is trying to spin this as offering better value, because the new tickets offer unlimited travel compared to one out-and-back journey. Merseyrail is ignoring (and hoping we won’t notice) that a lot of people don’t want an “unlimited” ticket. I don’t have any statistics, but I suspect that there are many travellers who do just want a simple return journey and will not be happy at having to pay more. For those that want unlimited travel, the Saveaway was already amazing value anyway.

It’s not even the first time Merseyrail have done something like this. Back in October 2008 they introduced a “minimum fare” for Off Peak Returns, meaning that many people’s journeys increased in cost by 20% or more overnight.

It doesn’t actually affect me directly (I have a Trio ticket so my rail journeys are paid up a month in advance anyway) and you could argue that it’s stupid of me to be whingeing about what must be still the cheapest rail fares in the country. I’m just a bit annoyed at the way this has been done: I think Merseyrail are being a bit disingenuous here.

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One Response
  1. Comment by Chris P
    3rd September 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Given that Arriva charge £5.30 for a return from Shrewsbury to Church Stretton, a one-station hop of 15 minutes in one of their stale-smelling cattle trucks, I think that even the new higher fares have a slightly retro look to them. The Southport to Blundellsands increase does seem a bit steep, however.