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Train companies charge evening peak train fares from 3pm

Train operators make peak times 'very confusing' for passengers, with some operators charging evening peak fares from as early as three in the afternoon, research has revealed.


Train operators Virgin and East Coast charge passengers peak fares from as early as 3pm, an investigation has found.

This means East Coast’s evening peak now lasts four hours, compared to other train operators such as Chiltern and Merseyrail which do not have an evening peak at all, according to consumer group Which?

With no consistency between train operators with regards to peak times, train companies are making it ‘very confusing’ for passengers, Which? claims.

For example, while some train companies have a set morning peak time ending at 9.30, East Coast’s morning peak in London ends at 10.05am - unless the passenger is travelling first class, using an off-peak day return, travelcard or super off-peak in which case the time varies. Peak times can also vary according to where you depart from.

Which? said: ‘You’d be forgiven for not knowing if you’re coming or going, yet Atoc claims ‘four out of five passengers are happy with their journey’.

Colin Foxall, Passenger Focus chairman, said: ‘Passenger Focus has been critical of those train companies’ which have tinkered with off-peak ticket restrictions and have effectively forced passengers into buying more expensive tickets.

‘With less than half of all passengers satisfied with value for money, train companies have a long way to go to address concerns,’ he added.

Earlier this month Passenger Focus said some train fares had nearly quadrupled since last year and that by redesignating trains as ‘peak’, rail companies had been able to increase fares without the regulator’s permission. Train companies however claimed that the changes only affected a tiny amount of people.

9 comments so far. Why not have your say?


Aug 26, 2010 at 09:12

What, trains are a rip off?

Its hardly new news is it?

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 26, 2010 at 09:52

Once again no real facts are used here. The two operators mentioned are "long distance" operators where people starting a journey at 3:00pm are likely to still be occuying a seat at 4:30 - 5:00. Quite simple to understand really!

I have no vested interests here.

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derek farman

Aug 26, 2010 at 10:10

It is high time fares were regulated . Train travel on the continent is cheaper and efficient . Why ours are so fragmented , complicated and downright annoying beats me . One fare per journey whatever the time , calculated on distance travelled is surely not too difficult to implement .

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Aug 26, 2010 at 10:52

I thought the "Passenger Service Requirements" documents defined when peak and off-peak is. These were originally issued by OPRAF whch later became The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority and then the The Strategic Rail Authority and later absorbed into either the Office of Rail Regulation or the Department for Transport.

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Jeremy Bosk

Aug 26, 2010 at 12:09

This manipulation of peak-time definitions is not just a means to gouge the public. Shifting discretionary travellers to different times allows operators to balance their loads and lessen overcrowding. Passengers on long distance commutes and those who work flexi-time often do leave early or arrive late thus prolonging the rush period.

What we really need is either more track, more trains and better signalling or more home-working and shift working. There is very little need for everyone to be in the same place at the same time with modern electronic communications. The problems are exacerbated by rigid employers and the ever present lack of long term thinking.

Since I can remember standing for 35 minutes all the way from Luton to St Pancras at six in the morning back in the mid sixties, I am not holding my breath.

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Lucky me

Aug 26, 2010 at 12:16

To think GMT was widely adopted because of the advent of GB rail travel. Perhaps they should introduce a VirginMT and East CoastMT to confuse things even more.

Just another example of wringing every last drop of revenue from Joe Public.

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Aug 26, 2010 at 12:46

Well Margaret Thatcher and Conservatives sold the railways to private companies under promise that train fares will be cheaper and created ATOC -Train watchdog- without any teeth!! -Power

Trains are not only providing a poor service but they are also looking at ways to maximize earnings for their shareholders, so this does not come as surprise to anyone.

Let the public suffer from poor,dirty and late running train and charge them (finger in the air!) fare.

We do not protest we the Jo public just keep paying!!

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Minoo Dumasia

Aug 26, 2010 at 12:49

It is now a good time to have a re-think on how the British railways network is set up. Competition was at the heart of the British railways reforms of the 1990s, but compromises were made at the very start, undermining the conditions necessary to create an effective industry. By 2004 the failures of the administration of the railways led the whole system to become discredited in the eyes of most of the general public. Today the entire UK public transport system is in shambles. I stopped using train services long ago. Talking about long distance train operators, it is quicker and cheaper to fly from Stansted to Glasgow (return) than to go from London to Glasgow one way by train.

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Victor Meldrew

Aug 26, 2010 at 23:00

If they really wanted to balance the load, every time they give you a ticket, they would give a list of off-peak times that apply to the ticket.

I recently got chucked out at Stevenage because my off-peak ticket was Outbound or something instead of return, and had the privilege of exploring a nearby shopping centre, or perhaps 'Central Non-descript Zone might be a better term. Rail companies must have invested billions in making the place as dismal as possible, as an incentive to pay full-whack.

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