Train Advice On The Wrong Track Says

Poor advice means some passengers are paying well over the odds for rail travel, says
By: Which?
Sept. 27, 2007 - PRLog -- The consumer organisation ( ) asked the National Rail Enquiries (NRES) telephone helpline and clerks at station ticket offices what the cheapest walk-on (not advance purchase) fares would be for 25 journey scenarios, devised by a rail-fare expert. Overall, only half of the 50 questions were answered correctly. If customers had followed all the advice given, they would have been £1,263.60 worse off.

Bad advice was given for the cheapest fare for a single journey between London and Grantham on a weekday, arriving before 9am. For a ticket bought on the day of travel, both NRES and a King’s Cross station clerk quoted GNER’s £44.50 fare, ignoring a Hull Trains service that leaves 10 minutes earlier and costs just £20.

Six questions about breaking journeys en route were generally answered well, with station staff scoring full marks. But NRES made a real howler when asked if passengers could travel from Southampton to Bristol, then on to Birmingham later the same day. A through single should cost £48, but it quoted separate fares for each leg, pushing the fare up to £91.

Some of the most costly misinformation was given for journeys where season tickets should have been recommended. Passengers making a return journey between Swindon and Penzance twice in the same week could buy a Freedom of the Southwest Rover for £70. But both NRES and station staff quoted £67 per journey, making £134 in total – nearly double the cheapest price.

The NRES website, however, proved to be a much more reliable source of information, answering all questions put to it correctly. ( ) also checked out ‘the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket’ claims of five train companies - One, Virgin, First Great Western, Midline Mainline and GNER – over a 12-week period and found that it was not always the case. On some services, ticket prices went up and down, seemingly at random.

Malcolm Coles, Editor,, says:

“The NRES website provides accurate information, so why can’t station clerks and those manning the NRES helpline? Staff training needs to be improved. In the meantime, we’ve devised a checklist, available at ( ), so that customers don’t have to rely on a second-rate service.”

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About Which?
Which? is the leading independent consumer champion in the UK and has been testing products and services, as well as campaigning on behalf of the consumer, since 1957. It is committed to making individuals as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with in their daily lives. ( ) provides up to date, impartial, expert information on thousands of products and services to help people make the right choices, whatever they’re buying.


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