Cheap train tickets again


Today I read that I can get a train ticket to Birmingham for £6, to Stoke for £8 and to Leeds for £14.60 from London. Doesn’t sound like a crowded railway at the moment.


  1. Ex-expat Colin
    May 11, 2014

    I can get a one way on the Chiltern from Marylebone to 20 miles SW of Brum for £7 a week this Weds at about 17:50. There was a 1st class seat for not that much more. I think its the same amount to get across to SE London on Southern.

    Its certainly crowded if you happen to work in London full time, which is half mad really.

    1. Hope
      May 13, 2014

      I don’t suppose Villers helped by costing the taxpayer a fortune over the Virgin franchise that cost us £40 million. Then moved to NI post! She should have been sacked for her incompetence.

  2. matthu
    May 11, 2014

    It is more and more evident that HS2 cannot be profitable without government subsidy. Or writing off of huge chunks of debt, which seems to be the modern way of doing things.

    How about if they offered initial investors a 100 year discounted family ticket? That might work.

  3. Lifelogic
    May 11, 2014

    Indeed and with the extra capacity the absurd HS2 fares will fall further, even if these are only off peak rates. Trains are very inefficient as they are always nearly empty or sitting doing nothing outside peak times.

    I remember booking ferries to France for about £90 return when the channel tunnel prospectus was suggesting fares many times this and that after the extra capacity came on line. I did not buy the shares. No one but a fool would buy shares in HS2, that is why the idiotic Government will do it.

    1. Lifelogic
      May 11, 2014

      This was for a large car and two people on a Ferry to France return. I think the tunnel were suggestion they would get something like £5oo per car return or similar. It was clearly rather “unlikely” to say the least.

      One can drive a car door to door from London to Birmingham with five/seven people for perhaps £20 all in – why will people pay that much more to go on a high speed train that is not even door to door? A few MPs, and BBC staff on expenses perhaps.

      1. Aunty Estab
        May 12, 2014

        Just like Concorde, everyone subsidising travel for rich people

        1. Lifelogic
          May 12, 2014

          Indeed good old Tony Benn kept pissing money down the Concorde drain when it was quite clear it was nonsense. All those development costs spread over a tiny hand full of gas guzzling, limited range, noisy, pointless planes.

      2. lojolondon
        May 12, 2014

        What really killed the chunnel at the time was the fact that the market responded to the challenge. I remember having to get special permission to take the Eurostar, because you could fly to Paris on Easyjet for £20 eachway. Add taxes and car parking and it was still a fraction of the price.
        It is a great reminder how these consultants get it wrong, because they want to build a tunnel, so they come up with numbers to justify it, and push it past a friendly audience who ask no tough questions.
        I am no fan of Alan Sugar / Dragons Den, but I would love to see one of them running through the proposition, although it would probably take only 10 minutes to kick the whole rubbish idea into touch!

        1. Lifelogic
          May 12, 2014

          Well of course to raise money they “put a positive spin on it” or just tell a complete pack of lies – as with HS2.

    2. Anonymous
      May 12, 2014


      I tire of telling you that travelling empty or sitting idle isn’t limited to trains.

      Your car sits empty and unused for most of its life. When you drive it to the shops it is empty until you bring back a load in it. When you go to pick someone up from a railway station it is empty until you have your passenger on board.

      Lorries are empty 50% of the time.

      Motorcycle couriers are empty a lot of the time.

      Taxis are empty a lot of the time – parked up outside cafes (the costs are still there)

      Planes are empty a lot of the time (except you don’t get to see them when they are) but when they sell off seats at a pound a trip they are (commercially) empty too.

      You don’t like railways because you don’t like railway workers. Admit it.

      If you think railway workers are like the bolshie leftists pre privatisation then no wonder. If so then this view needs an update. One thing privatisation did get right was recruiting.

      Why not redirect your prejudices to bankers ?

      There was one on Andrew Marr on Sunday telling us that, in order to get good work, we must pay top dollar for staff. Yet ordinary people are told that if they don’t race to the bottom on global wages then they can’t compete.

      Reply An empty car is not subsidised by the state. I agree it is often better to employ better paid people who are skilled and motivated. The art for the country is to get more people skilled and motivated to get the better paid jobs.

      1. Anonymous
        May 12, 2014

        PS – I agree. HS2 is a bad idea.

      2. Lifelogic
        May 14, 2014

        I do not dislike railways, I just think they should not have the subsidies and huge tax advantages over cars, coaches and trucks and should have to compete or fail to compete on a level fiscal and subsidy basis.

        The main disadvantages they have is they cost far more than trucks, coaches and cars and fail to go door to door. They thus need cars, buses, taxis or trucks at each end anyway.

  4. margaret brandreth-j
    May 11, 2014

    Is that return from London?

    Reply single from London

    1. APL
      May 11, 2014

      JR: “I can get a train ticket to Birmingham for £6,”

      JR: “single from London”

      As others have already pointed out, HS2 is never, never, ever going to pay for its capital cost or provide a return on investment, running empty carrages for £6 or less a seat.

  5. Tad Davison
    May 11, 2014

    A few weeks ago, my daughter wanted to travel from Coventry to Cambridge one-way, and the train company wanted to charge her (more likely me!) over £50!

    It was far cheaper for me to do the round trip in my diesel car, and do a bit of cheap shopping in the process (Cambridge being an expensive rip-off place to live).

    The trains on that route are far from crowded, and I can’t say that comes as a surprise. It is reminiscent of the old ‘Penny Black’ phenomenon, where postage rates were brought down to more affordable levels with the stamp’s introduction, and that fuelled demand which turned a loss-making service into a profitable one. It seems there are anomalies with the pricing structure on Britain’s railways. Surely good management can put that right?

    Tad Davison


    1. Anonymous
      May 12, 2014

      More carriages at peak times, Tad. This would bring unit costs down.

      We could put our own people into rolling stock manufacture. Tool up, skill up and then export.

      Stuff like this would be far better than HS2.

      1. Tad Davison
        May 12, 2014

        Sounds good to me! I’d love this nation to be a ‘can-do’ place.


  6. James Sutherland
    May 11, 2014

    Meanwhile, there are genuinely overcrowded sections/times – which massive spending efforts like HS2 will do nothing at all to improve.

    For several weeks, I’ve counted over 30 people standing in a single carriage on my train home each Friday afternoon – crowded such an extent it’s difficult for the doors to close, never mind any thoughts for passenger comfort or indeed safety (and no chance of a passenger reaching the lavatory, either!). The previous two trains are almost as bad, yet First give no apparent thought to elevating service above the bare minimum of a single three-coach set every hour. Commercially, I suppose they have little incentive: unlike air, bus and taxi services, there seem to be no enforced standards: more profitable to cram everyone into a tiny space. Needless to say, emulating a sardine costs substantially more than journeys further south: a minimum of 35 p per mile for the single journey.

    Why on earth aren’t train operating companies held to some sort of standard to stop this? Now that tickets are checked – and presumably recorded – by automated barriers, it would be trivial data analysis to identify overloading on route segments and sanction accordingly.

  7. Anonymous
    May 11, 2014

    Crowded trains ?

    It really does depend which time you travel.

    1. Lifelogic
      May 14, 2014

      Indeed and most travel (by definition) on the crowded trains and so have the wrong impression of the real average occupancy. It is a very biased sampling of occupancy from customers. You need to look at occupancy all day (both directions) and it can be very low indeed on average.

  8. A different Simon
    May 11, 2014

    Sorry to post an off topic comment but our Islands have just produced another Great Briton .

    Winston Churchill , Glenn Hoddle , Paul Gascoigne and now Andrew Austin , CEO of Igas .

    This visionary has made a move on Dart Energy , another player in the UK onshore oil and gas E&P space

    Nigel Farage was nailed on winner of “Man of the Year” until Andrew made his play .

    The UK has a real possibility of creating a new operating major under this mans oversight .

    Will wonders never cease ?

  9. James Reade
    May 11, 2014

    That could be true. But an equally plausible explanation is that via advance tickets they are able to price flexibly and balance customers throughout the week/day.

    But I know, such an answer doesn’t fit with your political agenda, does it?

    1. David Price
      May 12, 2014

      But there would have to be consistently available space at those times to offer such a deal, in advance or otherwise.

      The passenger space is already there it hasn’t been created by the ticket offers…

  10. Richard1
    May 12, 2014

    Perhaps you should ask the Dept of Transport what the annual operating loss of HS2 will be if these ticket prices still apply when HS2 is open.

  11. Atlas
    May 12, 2014

    Yep, John, cheap fares via Marylebone is my experience too. I agree with your HS2 analysis. HS2 seems more like a State vanity project.

    1. Lifelogic
      May 12, 2014

      Lots of friends of friends getting jobs, consultancies and pensions one assumes. Little other logic to the absurdity.

  12. Demetrius
    May 12, 2014

    Railway economics have been crazy since around 1830, as too many investors in the past have found to their cost. After 2015 we shall not need two heavily subsidised and costly main lines to Scotland. Also, if the Scots do want a direct London link they should pay their end of it.

  13. Lindsay McDougall
    May 14, 2014

    Is it not the case that the railways offer too many different ticket prices and ticket types? Would not some rationalisation be advantageous? However, it is not possible to command a high price for morning London commuter trains returning from London to their out of town origins because they are so empty.

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