Upside down, back to front rail ticket prices


I recently had occasion to travel by train from Glasgow to Carlisle and back – a reasonably short distance and a journey time of about an hour and 20 minutes, and I have to report a reasonably comfortable train. It may not be right to start a Skelping with such a positive outlook, but credit where credit is due I say.

No, the particular irritant in this journey was found in the booking office of Glasgow Central Station – a magnificent old place standing in memory of a reliable and affordable UK-wide rail network that used once to be as common as the meadow pipit.

Picture this if you will (for we are about to enter The Twilight Zone)…wallet in hand I wait a modest few minutes for a teller to become vacant. On hearing the request to approach window number four, I move on over and ask, politely I thought, for a return ticket to Carlisle. £44.50 replied the teller, without so much as a hello, good afternoon or please.

Thinking this a little on the pricey side, and being slightly deaf as a result of persistent sinusitis brought on by this damp, northern climate, I repeated this figure with a quizzical look, and “really?” appended for good measure. All good natured stuff I thought.

“That’s what I said,” replied the teller.

Taken aback by this response, and caught somewhat off guard, I muttered something about having checked on the web and it was much cheaper. My new chum lightened up a bit at this point and informed me that this was the price of a cheap day return. But then she became positively engaged in my simple request to get to Carlisle and back as cheaply as possible.

“When are you coming back?” she asked me, though still a little haughtily for my liking.

“Tomorrow evening, on the 7.10 from Carlisle,” I said.

“You’d be better off buying two standard singles then, they’re £16 each.”

Now I don’t claim to be a mathematical genius, but it does strike me that you would be better off buying two standard singles regardless of when you were coming back, saving yourself £10 in the process which makes me wonder just how they arrived at the cost of a standard return in the first place.

This is just one example of why the rail network is on its knees in the UK. Another is that if you are travelling from Glasgow to Dundee, then it is cheaper to buy a ticket from Glasgow to Perth and then one from Perth to Dundee, than get a straight through ticket. Add this to the state of the track and rolling stock and you have the UK rail network.


Give me SNCF and even better TGV any day. It’s more reliable, cheaper, and easier to use, and they serve better coffee.


I think any plea to the rail companies falls on deaf ears, go on prove me wrong.

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  • It does make you wonder what level of intelligence you don’t have to have to get a joab on the railways. Here’s my synopsis of the criteria you must meet to be hired by Network Rail:

    IQ of 60 but less than 80
    No understanding of the concept of manners, civility or customer service
    An innate loathing of your fellow man
    A petty oneupmanship mentality that includes every “ism” conceivable; racist, sexist, heightist, political choicist, lifestyle choicist…add as your experience sees fit
    Have a pathological inability to apologise
    Slovenly speech and grammar rendering any dialogue over a tannoy system completely incomprehensible

    I’m sure there are many more, feel to make your own additions…

  • There’s a related issue which is this; they have been continually hiking up prices for the past decade or so. Why? Because they say, not enough people use the service. So they increase prices and in doing so increase the cost relative to traveling using alternate means. So less people use it. So they increase the prices. So less people use it.

    I’d be comfortable with the idea of transport privatisation if the people running privatised transport didn’t give the impression that elementary economic principles like the relationship between demand and cost wasn’t utterly mysterious to them. If they charged a rate which made them more competitive more people would use their service and they would (gradually) increase their profitability. But at the end of the day (and this is a problem with transport privatisation in general) they don’t /really/ care; so long as the year-to-year profit is the same it doesn’t particularly matter to them if there’s a vast diminution in the number of people using the service, so ultimately the individual people involved don’t have any motivation not to engage in behaviour which ultimately runs transport by rail into the ground. The solution to this problem was supposed to be found in having rival companies offering different tickets, but in practice, given the supply of actual trains is effectively shared, they just mimic each others pricing and the ‘competition’ becomes a farce.

    I’m sure that rail privatisation could work fine in theory, but in practice in this country it’s been an absolute joke.

  • A powerful share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit of analysis on this. And he actually bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If doable, as you turn out to be experience, would you thoughts updating your weblog with more details? It is extremely useful for me. Big thumb up for this weblog post!

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