I have to say that I still find the pricing of train journeys mindblowing. I was travelling to Manchester last week and couldn’t believe the options available and the different ways I could buy tickets for what should be a simple journey. It turns out that for me on the day I was travelling the cheapest way to travel was to buy a return ticket from Glasgow to Preston then another return from Preston to Manchester.
Why that should be any cheaper than buying a ticket straight through from Glasgow to Manchester I have no idea. But it was, and by a long way!
I’m just very grateful that the lady who was dealing with me took the time to ask me when I was going and when I was coming back, and whether I minded changing at Preston rather than taking the direct train to Manchester Airport, which I could have done without changing at Preston.
As it turns out the train I took was actually a couple of minutes quicker, even allowing for the time I stood on the platform at Preston, as well as being substantially cheaper.
It can be the same with local trains. I remember finding it really strange that if I travelled from Clarkston to Edinburgh via Queen St it was cheaper to buy a return from Clarkston to Glasgow then another return from Glasgow to Edinburgh than it was to buy a return ticket from Clarkston to Edinburgh.
To me that is just plain crazy. Train companies want us to travel by train. They advertise the benefits of train travel and, leaving aside the punctuality issue for a minute that is a real problem in some areas, they are largely correct. It is easier to travel by train than to drive and, for me at least, I prefer train travel to travelling on planes.
But I would enjoy it even more if I felt that I could be sure that when I bought a ticket I was getting value for money and that I didn’t have to spend hours working through all of the different options to make sure that I wasn’t spending any more than I needed to.
This article appeared in the Daily Record in February 2019.