Ear to the Gro undIndustry gossip from ‘The Mole’
In July the Mole ventures to London, having received an exciting invitation to attend the launch of Sir Clive Sinclair’ s newA-bike .Launches being somewhat thin on the ground these days, this event is most welcome,despite the arm and a leg extracted by first Great Western for the privilege of riding in a thirty-year-old train, running on this occasion, a fashionable halfan-hour late. The cost of the fare has,incidentally, risen yet again, for it seems First Group middle managers read A to B .Whenever a new wily money-saving measure appears in these pages, the company mysteriously alters the conditions.Travelling up to Town from Bogworthy Junction before June 2000,one might catch the 07.47 for £34 return,using a SuperSaver ticket.When this option was withdrawn, A to B came up with the wheeze of buying a Day Return to Newbury (half way) and singles thereon, at a price of £40.75 (see A to B19 ). Soon enough,fGW raised the restriction barrier, ruling this out, so in A to B34 ,the wily magazine moved on to using Pewsey as a ‘split ticket’ point.This was still valid on the 07.47,and at £38.30,cost even less. Now this fare too has been withdrawn, forcing the careful traveller to waste a whole chunk of rain forest by purchasing six separate tickets:Day Return from Bogworthy to Westbury, another from Westbury to Pewsey,and a Saver from Pewsey to London,at a total cost of £40.90.The ‘official’ fare is £115. One wouldn’t mind jumping through
these extraordinary hoops to buy a ticket for a reasonable sum,if fGW ticket inspectors bothered to actually check the things,but on this occasion the pile of tickets remains unsullied until collected at Paddington. First Group seems to run most of British Rail these days, and having paid a great deal for some of the franchises,is busy maximising revenue to pay for these adventures. Having acquired Thameslink and the remains of West Anglia Great Northern, renaming the franchise First Capital Connect ,the company caused uproar amongst the good citizens of Hertfordshire in June by banning Day Return travellers from peak hour trains out of London. Like many others,these trains are overcrowded.The answer would once have been to buy (or in the Good Old Days, build ) more rolling stock and make some infrastructure improvements.But not on the brave new privatized railway! First Group reckoned it could keep raking in the peak fares with the current stock by pricing economy travellers off the trains. The company issued all the usual guff about ‘proactively managing supply and demand’ (putting up fares), and ‘improving the quality of the journey’ (the remaining passengers might get a seat). ‘Nonsense!’, said London’s wonderfully proactive mayor, Ken Livingstone . According to Ken,the exercise was nothing less than ‘a cynical revenue-raising exercise designed to maximise profits’.
A to B 55