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“Please help me persuade Virgin Trains to sTOP RIP-OFF THROUGH-TICKETING PRICES” – David Christmas


David Christmas

On September 21st I travel from Stratford-upon-Avon to Lancaster. According to the single ticket costs £51. But a ticket from Stratford to Birmingam is £6.70 and from Birmingham to Lancaster, £21 - total £27.70 - little more than half the price of a through ticket. Why?

Problem History

  • 1 David Christmas reported the issue on FixMyTransport. close 12:21 08 Sep 2011
  • 2 David Christmas wrote to Virgin Trains close 12:21 08 Sep 2011

    Here is the letter that David Christmas wrote.


    On September 21st I travel from Stratford-upon-Avon to Lancaster. According to the single ticket costs £51. But a ticket from Stratford to Birmingam is £6.70 and from Birmingham to Lancaster, £21 - total £27.70 - little more than half the price of a through ticket. Why?

  • 3 Relations, Customer responded to David Christmas close 12:25 08 Sep 2011
    Thank you for contacting us.

    This is an automated email acknowledgement confirming receipt of
    your email.

    We will respond again shortly.


    Customer Relations
    Virgin Trains.

    show quoted sections

    The information in this email is confidential and/or privileged
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    addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, you must not
    read, use, copy, print or disseminate the information - please
    advise the originator immediately by reply e-mail and delete it.
    Although this email and any attachments are believed to be free
    of any virus, or any other defect which might affect any
    computer or IT system into which they are received and opened,
    it is the responsibility of the recipient to ensure that they
    are virus free and no responsibility is accepted by Virgin
    Trains for any loss or damage arising in any way from receipt or
    use thereof.

    Any opinions expressed in this email message are those of the
    sender and do not represent those of Virgin Trains or affiliated
    Companies in any way and reliance should not be placed upon its
    contents. Unless otherwise stated this email message is not
    intended to be contractually binding. Where an Agreement exists
    between our respective companies and there is conflict between
    the contents of this email message and the Agreement then the
    terms of that Agreement shall prevail

    Thank you

    [email address]

    Virgin Trains is the trading name for West Coast Trains Limited
    (a subsidiary of Virgin Rail Group Ltd), a company registered in
    England and
    Wales (number 3007940) whose registered office is at The School
    House, 50 Brook Green. London. W6 7RR

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  • 4 David Christmas asked for advice. close 12:53 08 Sep 2011

    Can anyone explain why tickets from A-B and B-C can cost considerably less than one ticket from A-C? The only reason I can think of is the train operators profiteering from the unwary. Or am I being an old cynic?

  • 5 Myf Nixon commented close 13:18 08 Sep 2011

    Hi David,

    I can't explain why, but I can point you to a page where a similar conversation is happening:

    Also, I found this article, which underlines that it's an issue that has been raised by the press in the past:

    That included this line: "Train operators are obliged to sell the most appropriate through fares for their journey but it's clear more needs to be done to ensure their customers are offered the best deals available" - which to me indicates that the 'most appropriate' ticket will not always equate with being the cheapest, at least in the minds of the operators.

    As for more constructive advice, I suggest you look at This is a campaign to 'make fares cheaper, simpler and fairer'.

  • 6 Paul Hollinghurst commented close 16:20 08 Sep 2011

    Each point to point fare has a specified train operating company which sets it, and it is the inconsistencies between different operators which tends to lead to these anomalies.

    There is no attempt to keep any consistency between short and long distance fares; if they really wanted to they could run a consistency check on all the long distance fares and cap them at the level of what you would pay for the cheapest series of short distance fares. The operators may claim it is impractical to do an exhaustive check as there are millions of fares, but they could certainly do a more limited check to identify examples such are the one you mention.

    So, you are right, the operators don't want you to identify these savings. This is because they want to be able to think about each point to point fare in isolation so they can think about what competition there is (e.g. alternatives of bus or car), how popular the journey is, and what people are prepared to pay, and the level of other fares (which may be regulated), and set the fare accordingly. So if they decide to have a cheap fare to encourage a particular journey they don't want everyone benefiting from it.

    This is also the case for Advance Purchase tickets where you are explicitly forbidden from getting off the train before the destination on the ticket. This is because they will often be targeting particular pair of stations, e.g. Glasgow to Oban, but know that passengers from the small intermediate station of Crianlarich don't have much alternative so don't want to offer cheap fares there.

    It is of course unfair and ends up with passengers feeling they are being manipulated and ripped off. However they are businesses who have bid for franchises on these terms against their competitors and are allowed to do this. So the fault must lie with the Department for Transport who should have stepped in to stop this years ago, but they have chosen not to because historically they have been more interested in letting franchises than things bringing in a fair system of rail fares.

    As mentioned by Myfanwy are actively campaigning for a reform of the fares system.

  • 7 Virgin Trains responded to David Christmas close 09:18 13 Sep 2011

    Dear Mr D Christmas,

    Thank you for your email which we received on 8 September 2011.
    Your comments have been entered into our case management system
    under reference 4-2063815 and we will respond to you as soon as

    If it is an urgent matter, however, you may wish to give us a
    call on 0845 000 8000 quoting the above reference. In the
    meantime, we will do our utmost to arrange a swift response.


    Virgin Trains Customer Relations Team

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  • 8 Virgin Trains responded to David Christmas close 14:46 21 Oct 2011

    Dear Mr Christmas,

    Thank you for providing your clients feedback which we received
    on 8^th September 2011. I would like to offer my sincere
    apologies for the significant delay to our response. I am very
    grateful for your patience and understanding in this matter.

    I can understand their concern regarding the pricing of tickets.

    When a customer requests the cheapest fare available, the member
    of staff or retail system will sell the cheapest available
    ticket for immediate travel between the two stations requested.
    The sale of tickets is governed by an impartial retailing
    agreement that exists between train companies. Clearly there are
    anomalies in the fare system, caused in part by regional
    variations where local Transit Authorities subsidise local
    journeys in their own areas. Strictly speaking these subsidised
    tickets are for passengers joining at these local stations and
    not for those passing through.

    As you will be aware, it is possible in some cases to find a
    combination of tickets that will reduce the cost of the overall
    journey. It would simply not be practical for retail outlets to
    look for the many combinations of tickets that may possibly
    produce a saving. If, however, the traveller is aware of the
    anomaly and requests tickets from and to specific stations along
    the route, then the seller will happily provide these. Normally
    we would expect that anyone using such a ticket combination
    would travel on a train that would stop at the intermediate
    stations shown on the ticket, as any subsidies would not be
    received by the train company providing the through services
    that did not call at the appropriate stations.

    The cheaper fares your client has quoted includes one of our
    Advance tickets. These tickets represent exceptional value, and
    as a result are extremely popular.  While we offer the Advance
    tickets on many of our services, they are understandably limited
    in availability.

    All of our Advance tickets are priced on a multi-tiered basis,
    with the cheapest available Advance ticket for a particular
    service always being shown. Once the quota of tickets at this
    price has sold out, the next cheapest Advance ticket will be
    offered, and so on, until the entire allocation of Advance
    tickets for that train have been sold.

    Although this combination of fares does work out cheaper, this
    option will not always be available in view of the above.

    I do thank you for contacting us. We value your comments, and we
    welcome the opportunity this gives us to understand what our
    customers require from our service.

    Yours sincerely

    Ben Evers

    Customer Relations

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  • 9 Rex Hora commented close 11:54 25 Oct 2011

    I have had a similar experience when travelling from Reading to Lewes. It is cheaper to buy two tickets (Reading-Gatwick Airport and Gatwick Airport-Lewes) than to buy a through ticket from Reading to Lewes.

  • started 8 September 2011
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Train route between Lancaster and Stratford-upon-Avon operated by Virgin Trains
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