Liddle on Trains

It\’s an amazing rant. He seems not to have realised that rail travel is, by passenger numbers, vastly up. But this is the truly silly part:

Even the comparatively straightforward “saver returns”, of which there are about 900 kinds, will leave you in trouble if you wish to alter your return time. You can’t upgrade, you’ll have to buy yourself a whole new open ticket. I travelled by train in Poland recently and asked for a ticket between two cities: I was told the price (which was about one-tenth of the price for a similar rail journey in Britain) – but then felt moved to bombard the poor counter clerk with subsidiary questions. Was this the cheapest ticket? Were there restrictions on it? How long did it last?

The Pole looked at me in utter bewilderment. “It’s just a return ticket to Krakow, sir,” he said, “they all cost the same. Why wouldn’t they?” You get conditioned to the rules of the asylum, after a while, you see.

These aren\’t the rules of the asylum at all: they\’re the only economically rational ones. If you\’ve got a system with huge overhead and fixed costs and nearly zero marginal ones (the cost of one extra passenger on a train, up to the limit of capacity, is somewhere between very little indeed and nothing) then you ought to be slicing and dicing the pricing structure. That way you can influence people to spread their travel over time, and thus increase the total load carried.

What\’s even more is that he praises the airlines for their prices…..and airlines are much greater users of this price discrimination system than the railways are. Sigh.

7 comments on “Liddle on Trains

  1. I ‘m sure there is a reason, but what is the economic rationale for two singles often being cheaper than one return (even with set times)?

  2. “And why is it often much cheaper to buy separate tickets for parts of a journey, ie A-B and B-C than the whole journey, A-C ?”

    Because of the regulations on tickets. Some are regulated fares, some aren’t. Some are subject to inter-company rules, some aren’t.

  3. The biggest users of this type of pricing are telephone companies, especially the mobile companies. Furthermore, the specialise in obfuscation far better than any rail company or airline

  4. “Furthermore, the specialise in obfuscation far better than any rail company or airline”

    Unlimited web access*

    *limited to 100Mb/month.

  5. Rail travel is by passenger numbers vastly up, a better question is, should it be?

    Trains run on diesel, and therefore produce greenhouse gasses. Obviously this is a problem, it is an even bigger problem because they use red diesel and so only pay a fraction of the costs of everybody else and on top of that they are subsidised to give cheaper tickets. Therefore people will be already consuming more train journeys than is environmentally sound.

  6. Kay Tie,

    Good call. Thats my current Pet peeve!

    I’ve complained to advertising standards but apparently they don’t understand the English language any more and think this is acceptable.

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