The costly ‘insurance’ behind train fares

Apr 14, 2014   //   by Keith McDonald   //   Commentary / Editorial  //  Comments Off on The costly ‘insurance’ behind train fares

SouthernTrains Electrostar

You might have caught wind by now of the hedge fund manager who has repaid £42,550 for five years of fare dodging. The thought that our extortionate rail fares subsidise crooks like this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. But another current thorn in my foot regarding rail fares is the issue of what I would loosely call ‘insurance’.

I now routinely split my tickets if I’m travelling any distance, as it save bundles on the cost.

For those not familiar with this practice, it’s when you split a journey into two or more smaller legs and buy separate tickets for each one. Chances are you’ll pay far less for your journey than you would if you purchased a direct single. (Check out our step-by-step guide on split-ticketing here.)

The downside is that splitting your tickets this way can be risky on two fronts.

  1. Firstly, all of your single tickets are completely separate from each other. If you split your journey on the same train, that’s ideal. But if you have a separate ticket for a train that you end up missing due to a late running service, there’s nothing you can do about it.
  2. Likewise, if there’s a major delay and you apply for a refund under the Delay-Repay Scheme (as I experienced recently during an ill-fated trip to Norwich), you’ll only be compensated for the affected portion of your ticket rather than the full cost of the journey.

The half-consolation with split-ticketing is that even if you do end up paying again for part of your journey, it would be extremely unfortunate if you ended up paying more than you would have done with a direct ticket.

But, because there’s an element of risk, the saving you make by split-ticketing needs to be worthwhile before you consider it. And this underlines the root of the problem.

When you know it’s possible to take the same route more cheaply with multiple tickets, it suggests that you’re paying a huge premium for insurance whenever you buy a direct ticket.

A direct ticket will get you from A to B, even if a stonking delay causes you to miss your connections. And if the shit really does hit the fan and you’re delayed for hours, you’ll get a more substantial refund for your troubles.

But it’s a crying shame once you realise the actual cost of that insurance premium on your ticket, and then consider how you probably need it because you can’t trust trains to behave and run on time.


Bottom Line: It’s often far cheaper to split your train tickets, but this comes at a fair degree of risk. So, direct tickets can remain costly because a poor level of service ensures that enough customers feel the need for the thin veil of insurance that comes with them. Shocking.


Delay Repay: Your Entitlements

If your journey was delayed by 30 minutes or more, irrespective of the cause, you will be entitled to claim compensation under our Delay Repay scheme. We will offer our customers:

  1. 50% of the cost of your single ticket or 50% of the cost of either portion of your return ticket for delays of between 30 and 59 minutes; or
  2. 100% of the cost of your single ticket or 100% of the cost of either portion of your return ticket for delays of 60 minutes or more.
  3. If either or both the outward or return legs of your journey is delayed by more than two hours and you have a return ticket, you will be entitled to receive up to 100% of the cost of the return ticket.

In the case of Season tickets, Delay Repay compensation is calculated based on the proportional single ticket price paid for that journey. For example, the daily proportional cost of a seven day ticket is calculated based on an assumption that ten single journeys are made per working week (five return journeys).

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