Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

3rd March 2014

Together We Are Made
Posted by at 1.01pm | Trains | 1 response

Two Together PhotocardAmidst 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 »

1st January 2010

2009? More like Two Thousand and Fine!

July saw Merseyrail’s run of bad luck continue, as a train rolled out of the depot and derailed. To atone for their sins, they introduced a new day ranger ticket, but I wasn’t convinced. This was something of a train-y month for me, as I did my bit to help out the previous generation of Merseyrail trains. Trains were also on the Government’s mind, as they announced that the Liverpool to Manchester line would be electrified.

In London, the Police proved once again what a wonderful organisation they are. In Rome, a swimmer suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

Read the rest of this post »

11th November 2009

Posted by at 8.00pm | Trains | 2 responses

I like the National Rail site. As well as the regular stuff about timetables and fares, there’s a glorious hodgepodge of miscellaneous trivia about the rail network.

Now they’ve gone even better, with Stations Made Easy. It’s an amazing site which contains maps and plans of railway stations. Not just major stations, mind you, but seemingly EVERY station on the network (although Stanlow and Thornton station, located within the Shell oil refinery near Ellesmere Port, is missing).

Even better, hover your mouse over each part of the plan and you get photos and information of every section.

Moorfields Station plan

It’s like Google Earth for trainspotters and a fantastic resource for anyone visiting a station for the first time, or even just the terminally curious. Some stations are not particularly photogenic, however.

My favourite one so far is Edale, where there’s a dusting of snow on the platforms.

22nd May 2009

Holly Advance
Posted by at 6.31pm | Trains | No responses

Via BBC News:-

It is “unacceptable” that low-cost rail fares are easily available only to those with internet access, MPs say.

That’s not quite true: most Advance fares can be booked by phone or in person at a station ticket office (if they have access to the computerised ticket booking system, which most do these days).

However, this doesn’t change the fact that Advance fares are the most frustrating aspect of British rail travel. Availability is always something of a lottery: my experience is that for simple trips it’s fine, but as soon as the journey involves a change of train (and especially if more than one train company is involved) the advance tickets become hard to find. Then you have the choice of booking the more expensive “walk-up” ticket or spending an extra hour or so faffing around on the online booking engines, splitting your journey into shorter legs to see if tickets are available that way.

It’s a shame that the railway doesn’t make more of its the big advantage it has over internal flights (not having to book ahead), but as long as the money keeps rolling in, nothing is going to be done 🙁

25th April 2008

Fares Fair
Posted by at 1.21pm | Trains | No responses

The first phase of the long-awaited National Rail Fares Simplification starts at the end of May. The existing myriad layers of Advance Purchase fares will be swept away, replaced by a common AP ticket with the same terms and conditions across all train companies. Say goodbye to Student Getaway, Firstminute, SuperAdvance, Value Advance, Apex, Central Value and the rest… say hello to “Advance”.

The second phase will be later this year, when the walk-up ticket range is renamed. The unrestricted Open tickets become “Anytime” while Savers and Cheap Day tickets become “Off-Peak”. This should clarify matters and end the (perfectly understandable) confusion of people about which ticket is appropriate for their journey. National Rail claim that no fares will increase as a result of this renaming… they’re waiting until the fare changes in January for that.

I’m just hoping that Virgin Trains retain the existing concession where Railcard holders can use Savers on any train without time restriction. Not that it matters too much to me as I cannot renew my Y-P card after this year (too old!)

Virgin could also try making their peak fares less eye-wateringly expensive (some hope).