Rail (UK)

Fare Dealer

- Barry Doe National Rail · Network Rail Route 18 · Manchester · Southsea · Isle of Wight · Department for Transport · United Kingdom Department for Transport · Milton Keynes · West Midlands · Portsmouth · Ryde · Hovertravel · Southern Vectis · Lymington · Cowes · Wightlink

RAIL fares ex­pert Barry Doe of­fers clar­i­fi­ca­tion on any Na­tional Rail Timetable changes.

AS I write, it is only four weeks to the new Na­tional Rail Timetable, which will com­mence on De­cem­ber 13. Many peo­ple think it won’t hap­pen - af­ter all, the May NRT never ma­te­ri­alised.

Hav­ing dis­cussed this with Net­work Rail’s Mil­ton Keynes man­agers, I can of­fer clar­i­fi­ca­tion. There will be a De­cem­ber NRT with files on­line, but it won’t be fi­nalised un­til early De­cem­ber be­cause some op­er­a­tors have re­quested cut­ting back their orig­i­nal plans.

As­sum­ing lock­down fin­ishes on De­cem­ber 2, some are ner­vous about the traf­fic growth that will oc­cur - not least those who had planned a re­turn to the pre-COVID De­cem­ber 2019 lev­els lit­er­ally a week later.

Of course, the avail­abil­ity of paths means that all op­er­a­tors must change to­gether, but some are re­tain­ing their cur­rent re­duced ser­vices - such as Avanti West Coast, with its West Mid­lands and Manch­ester re­duc­tions that will re­main un­til at least Fe­bru­ary/March 2021.

By March, there could well be sig­nif­i­cant changes - not ex­actly a ‘new NRT’, but one re­quir­ing many ta­bles to be rewrit­ten as op­er­a­tors start to re­turn to nor­mal. All this de­pends on the pub­lic’s use of rail, which in turn might de­pend on a COVID vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme.

Once again, I won’t be in a po­si­tion to de­liver an NRT re­view in RAIL, although I hope to high­light ma­jor changes in The Fare Dealer as I learn of them.

In the mean­time, one sig­nif­i­cant new twist is that Wightlink uni­lat­er­ally de­cided to sus­pend its Portsmouth Har­bour to Ryde Pier Head ferry ser­vice from Novem­ber 16, thereby ef­fec­tively iso­lat­ing Is­land Line ser­vices.

Hover­travel ( www.hover­travel.co.uk) has come to the res­cue and is car­ry­ing through­booked ticket hold­ers with­out ex­tra charge. How­ever, this means pas­sen­gers must alight at Portsmouth & South­sea for a ded­i­cated bus to the hov­er­craft ter­mi­nal.

Un­for­tu­nately, hov­er­craft are sub­ject to sus­pen­sion in rough weather. I’m told that if this hap­pens, the ded­i­cated bus from Portsmouth & South­sea will run to the Wightlink ter­mi­nal at Gun­wharf Road for the hourly ve­hi­cle ferry ser­vice to Fish­bourne, where pas­sen­gers will be met by a spe­cial South­ern Vec­tis bus ser­vice to Ryde Es­planade.

This adds at least 70 min­utes to the nor­mal cross­ing. Need­less to say, Isle of Wight Coun­cil is dis­mayed at such uni­lat­eral ac­tion by Wightlink, which has also sus­pended all fer­ries from Lyming­ton Pier to Yar­mouth at week­ends.

As a user, my feel­ing is that Wightlink has lit­tle in­ter­est in foot pas­sen­gers. I al­ways use Red Fun­nel from Southamp­ton to Cowes, which is vastly su­pe­rior (although that is lit­tle con­so­la­tion for those need­ing Is­land Line trains).

Next to rail­cards, and an apol­ogy. In The Fare Dealer for RAIL 917, I gave de­tails of the new Veter­ans’ Rail­card and said, re­gard­ing its use: “There is a Mon-Fri £12 min­i­mum fare, ex­cept in July and Au­gust, and travel is not per­mit­ted on Mon-Fri be­tween 0430 and 0959.”

In fact, it’s only the £12 min­i­mum fare that ap­plies be­tween 0430 and 0959, and the rail­card it­self has no time restrictio­n. This min­i­mum fare does not ap­ply to Ad­vance tick­ets and, oddly, it seems it doesn’t ap­ply to First Class fares ei­ther.

The rail­card site doesn’t di­vulge this - an­other ex­am­ple of the in­dus­try be­ing sloppy, as well as an­other in­di­ca­tion of the com­pli­cated con­di­tions at­tached to rail­cards in gen­eral.

Fi­nally, a com­pan­ion can be added (only at the time of pur­chase) free of charge. This al­lows the com­pan­ion the same dis­counts as the holder, but the com­pan­ion must al­ways ac­com­pany the holder - as, of course, must any ac­com­pa­ny­ing chil­dren trav­el­ling for 19% of the adult fare.

Since I wrote about the Depart­ment for Trans­port’s re­fusal to al­low the in­dus­try to com­pen­sate rail­card hold­ers for the four months’ loss of use in the first lock­down ( RAIL 916), as I write we’re now in an­other month’s lock­down, so the sit­u­a­tion is worse.

I said that the Com­pe­ti­tion and Mar­kets Au­thor­ity (CMA) had made it clear that “a con­sumer will gen­er­ally be en­ti­tled to a re­fund when they have paid money for ser­vices or goods that can­not be pro­vided be­cause of the Coro­n­avirus pan­demic”, adding that I hoped this would lead to users test­ing in the courts the le­gal­ity of the DfT’s ac­tion.

Well, one reader is in­deed do­ing this. He bought his rail­card from South­east­ern and has writ­ten to its New­cas­tle HQ say­ing: “Be­tween March and July 2020 I was ef­fec­tively de­prived of the ben­e­fit of us­ing my Rail­card.”

It seems he dis­cussed this with the CMA and goes on: “I share the CMA’s view that my con­tract with South­east­ern has been frus­trated and that I am en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion. The pur­pose of this let­ter is to claim such com­pen­sa­tion.”

He con­cludes: “This let­ter is writ­ten in con­tem­pla­tion of le­gal pro­ceed­ings, and is a pre-ac­tion pro­to­col let­ter within the mean­ing of the Civil Pro­ce­dure Rules 1998.”

I know all readers will be very in­ter­ested in the out­come and will be grate­ful to him for rais­ing it in this way.

 ?? ALAMY. ?? Wightlink has sus­pended its Portsmouth Har­bour to Ryde Pier Head ferry ser­vice. Hover­travel has stepped in to carry through-booked ticket hold­ers with­out ex­tra charge, but any sus­pen­sion of hov­er­craft ser­vices ow­ing to bad weather would leave rail pas­sen­gers with a longer jour­ney via Fish­bourne and a bus ser­vice to Ryde.
ALAMY. Wightlink has sus­pended its Portsmouth Har­bour to Ryde Pier Head ferry ser­vice. Hover­travel has stepped in to carry through-booked ticket hold­ers with­out ex­tra charge, but any sus­pen­sion of hov­er­craft ser­vices ow­ing to bad weather would leave rail pas­sen­gers with a longer jour­ney via Fish­bourne and a bus ser­vice to Ryde.
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