Ticket Insanity

At the moment I’m commuting between Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge by train. It works out for the best for me – the times work out OK, I’m really catching up on reading, and it’s cheaper than driving.

Currently, a weekly ticket costs me £45 , and parking at Bury Station is £12 for the week (or £3.50 per day…), so my weekly costs are £57.

Having looked around, the next station along, Thurston, is much the same distance from home, and the parking is free. So I thought I’d have a look at the cost of the ticket.

A weekly ticket from Thurston to Cambridge is – wait for it – £77. Yes, £32 more expensive for one station more. It’s not even that much of a distance…

View Larger Map

The actual route is the dead-straight run between the two, not the highlighted route.

Even more bizarrely, a weekly ticket from Thurston to Bury is – um – £14. Still more expensive than parking at Bury station, but less than half the price of the extended weekly ticket from Thurston->Cambridge.

I’m sure there’s some logic there somewhere. But damn if I can find it.

Eighty Fucking Quid

One of the more surprising things about yesterday’s trip to London was the cost of the train ticket to do the journey.

Now I wrote about it last year when National Express East Anglia decided to almost-double the cost of the trainfare overnight from £40 to £74, and ended up with a letter from NEEA telling me that oh yes, it’d been an error, and the prices would drop back down at the next revision.

Looks like that was a lie, too. Indeed, the price has now gone up, so a return ticket with travelcard cost me £80.80 That really takes the piss. I could’ve driven down, parked all day, and driven back for less than half that amount – the only reason I didn’t was that I wasn’t in the mood for navigating London and the M25.

On the (very minor) plus side, the trains are now a lot less busy than they were when I was using them on a daily basis a couple of years back. Of course, that just means that (in theory at least) NEEA will then try and gouge their remaining customers even more in order to maintain the same levels of income.

Stick That, National Express

Fantastic news today that National Express are to lose their franchise on the East Anglia route three years earlier than expected.

I’ve written before about just how shit National Express are – and how shit they’ve been with their customers – with ‘under-the-table’ price rises on tickets and the like. (Which reminds me, I’ve got something to add on that score, but it can wait) So I think it’s great that their utter shitness has been recognised, and had something done about it.

Of course, this isn’t going to be a “with immediate effect” thing. The useless fuckbags still don’t lose it ’til 31st March 2011.  I wonder how many nasty little fare rises and shitty tactics they’ll put in place between now and then in order to maximise their income (and thus profit) before losing the contract?

Travel Fuckups

Just to add to my general joyous demeanour, there’s also news today that my train route is going to be hit by a week-long strike from 21st September. It turns out that ASLEF’s workers have rejected the deal offered by National Express East Anglia (and written about by me here) so the strikes are back on.

What I still don’t understand is what ASLEF et al expect to get out of these strikes. Any support or sympathy they might’ve got from people (and let’s bear in mind that passengers get treated abysmally by NEEA too, not just the staff) is going to be wiped out by the strike action affecting everyone for a week.

People might have a bit more sympathy and/or understanding if they knew just what ASLEF/RMT were demanding as a deal for their drivers, and/or what NEEA had offered in return. But neither organisation has either the common sense or the PR knowledge to do that.

So instead, assuming I’m still working on the current contract, I’m going to be going in to London by car instead of train. I’m going to angle for doing some work from home as well, which would be nice – although I’m not yet convinced it’ll happen. But it should make for an interesting week…

National Express searches

Is it very childish to be rather pleased that D4D™ now comes top in a Google search for “National Express East Anglia fare rise” ?

It also comes in fourth (currently) for “National Express fare rise

Ah, the small things that please my tiny mind…

Un-fucking-Believable (Part 5)

Just so people know I’m not just pissing in the wind when it comes to the way National Express East Anglia (NEEA) have doubled their prices overnight on the Norfolk->Cambridge line, I have also contacted NEEA’s Customer Services department via email. (I did this over the weekend, but haven’t yet had any response – hardly a surprise, I know)

The email read as follows…

How do NEEA justify doubling the cost of a ticket from Attleborough to London overnight with no warnings?

Upon arriving at the station, there is a piece of A4 paper wrapped in plastic on one noticeboard explaining that suddenly NEEA have decided that Attleborough -> Cambridge is a peak-time line until 10am “to bring it in line with other services leaving London”

It may have escaped NEEA’s notice that the line from Attleborough -> Cambridge neither leaves London nor comes from London. It is the line between Cambridge and Norwich. One has to change services (and in fact train operator) to get to London from Attleborough. And considering that I took the 7.55 train from Attleborough, and don’t get in to London ’til 10.15, that journey in no way constitutes a peak-time train, according to NEEA’s own Terms and Conditions.

So – how do NEEA justify this?

Also, how do they justify doing so overnight, with no advance warning. My £40 ticket – properly paid for on TheTrainLine.com – was invalid, so I’ve also had to pay £74 extra. The price rise isn’t mentioned on NEEA’s “News” page, nor is the arbitrary change of line to a peak-time line. In fact, even the guard and ticket inspector weren’t aware of it ’til Friday.

Are NEEA trying to get rid of customers? It’s now cheaper to drive to Cambridge and/or London than it is to take the train. (It’s also likely more convenient, as it means not having to hang around on stations while changing trains etc.)

I have no expectations that it will ever be responded to, because NEEA are (on current appearances) a bunch of profiteering scumbags with no regard for their paying customers at all. The only thing they appear to be interested in is their profit margin – although that, I suppose, is privatisation for you.

I’m also going to be putting the same complaint in ‘proper’ writing, and sending it in to NEEA

However, I’ve also contacted a couple of the local papers – who seem far more interested in the whole ‘ripping off customers’ thing. In fact I’m due to speak to one of their reporters today…

Un-fucking-Believable (Part 4)

Following on from the rest of the story, today was the day that NEEA put the prices way up for my ticket from Attleborough to London.

The sole explanation of this anywhere on the station platform was one sheet of A4 paper wrapped in plastic sticky-taped to one noticeboard, which explained (and I may be paraphrasing slightly here…)

Because we’re profiteering fuckwit bastards, the line between Norwich and Cambridge has now been deemed a ‘peak-line’ train, which means we’ll rip you the fuck off for a full-price ticket until 10am.

This is to bring this service in line with other services leaving London. In other words, live with it, and we’ll take your money. Suckers.

The excuse of ‘bringing this service in line with others leaving London’ would be almost fine, if it weren’t for one or two very fucking significant points.

Point the First

The line between Cambridge and Norwich doesn’t go anywhere near London. At all. To travel to/from London, you’ve got to change first at Cambridge or Norwich. There is NO direct service.

Point the Second

Off-Peak tickets for leaving london only apply (according to NEEA’s own T&Cs) for trains arriving in London before 10am. The 7.55am service gets in to London Kings Cross at – um – 10.15am. Leaving at 7.55, in fact, there is no fucking way I can get to London before 10am.

In most cases the off peak day travelcard is not available for travel on trains arriving in London* before 1000 or departing from London before 0930. Travel is also not permitted on services departing from London* between 1629 and 1834 Monday to Friday, except for travel to stations between Hatfield Peverel and Braintree inclusive on the 1636 departure from London.

So all told, it just looks like a massive profiteering move on NEEA‘s part to double the prices and grab as much profit as humanly possible.

In the meantime, I’ve complained to NEEA direct, although I’m willing to bet that they don’t even bother responding.  I’ll add the complaint letter as a post on D4D™ sometime this week, just for fun. I’m also going to be writing properly, rather than just in email – and I suspect a copy might make it’s way to the local papers etc. too…