East Anglia: End this ticket pricing fiasco

THE new rail operator for East Anglia was last night urged to end the “ridiculous” pricing structure for train journeys to London which can see different fares charged for exactly the same trip as the take-over draws ever nearer.

A traveller buying an off-peak return trip from Ipswich to London Liverpool Street would be charged �35.40. However, purchasing tickets in multiple stages – from Ipswich to Manningtree, and then Manningtree to Liverpool Street – it would be �7.60 cheaper.

At peak times the figures are escalated – the difference is nearly �20.

The passenger would not have to change trains at any point of the journey – the only condition is that the train you catch stops at Manningtree.

Now there are calls for the complicated pricing structure to be eradicated when rail operator Abellio takes over the franchise on Sunday.

Neil Skinner, of the Manningtree Rail Users’ Association, said fares and pricing systems had been “overly complex” for too long.

He said: “I’m absolutely convinced that there are people working for the train companies who actually don’t know the best deals available from the ticket offices.

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“It’s so unclear, you never know whether you are getting the best deal or not – even if you are a hardened traveller.”

The fare discrepancy dates back to the days of the old BR Network South East days. Manningtree was in the network, Ipswich was considered an InterCity station. That meant different fare structures applied – and continues to apply.

However, there are cheaper advance-purchase fares available for passengers who want to book seats on specific trains several days, or even weeks, in advance.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer was not impressed about the fare difference.

He said: “It seems ridiculous. Either they’re ripping off customers from Ipswich or they’re giving a very good deal to passengers from Manningtree, or they’re subsidising journeys from Ipswich to Manningtree!

“This is the kind of stupid fare situation that leaves passengers baffled. I hope the new operators do something about it when they are able to look at it,” he said.

Mr Gummer said the rail company should make it clear that the saving was available when selling tickets to people who wanted a day return to the capital.

A National Express East Anglia spokesman said: “Rail tickets are priced for each point-to-point journey and not based purely on mileage factors.

“This can result in differentials between the cost of a ticket for a point-to-point journey in comparison with the combined cost of multiples of tickets for a similar-length journey.”

He added that the off-peak tickets were valid for return at any point within a month whereas the day return from Manningtree could only be used on the same day.

Fares are set in consultation with the government and will not change when Abellio’s Greater Anglia franchise takes over the service next week.