06 July 2007

Train fares to Chester

On Tuesday, Peter and I are having a jaunt to Chester, the city where the face of public transport is changing very rapidly. Municipally-owned Chesterbus had been for sale for quite some time, though in a move not dissimilar to a tactic Stagecoach used in Darlington in 1994, neighbouring operator (second largest in the UK), Arriva, registered identical services at identical frequencies to those operated by Chesterbus, though a minute or two in front of Chesterbus services. Chester City Council immediately took Arriva to court and during this period Arriva cancelled their copycat services. This seemed to work as the judge didn't find Arriva guilty of much - specifically as they'd now not done anything.

Chester City Council then sold their Chesterbus business to the UK's largest transport operator, First Group two weeks ago, and seeing this as a green light, Arriva have re-commenced their competing services, though on a much smaller scale, in the city. Chester is something of a rare breed in terms that its local bus operator was owned by the local council; these are dwindling now and both Peter and I have decided to go and take some final day shots of Chesterbus vehicles before Firstr's "Barbie" livery replaces everything.

Getting to Chester from home in Cleethorpes is fairly straightforward (Cleethorpes - Manchester, Manchester - Chester), though at face value, the fare costs £43.00 and that's with a Young Persons Railcard! Many people would simply pay this price, shrug their shoulders and resign themselves to thinking the UK's rail network is bloody expensive, however those of us in the know - and who continually try to inform those who aren't - know how to reduce this fare to, in my case, £26.50 - all this and STILL travelling on exactly the same trains that the £43 fare gave. How? Well, let me explain:

The trains I'm catching are detailed as follows:
0718 Cleethorpes
0907-0912 Sheffield
1003 Manchester
1016 Manchester
1122 Chester

1654 Chester
1759 Manchester
1818 Manchester
1908-1912 Sheffield
2057 Cleethorpes

By buying three separate tickets: Cleethorpes - Sheffield; Sheffield - Manchester; Manchester - Chester, the fare reduces to that which I paid: £26.50. In fact, I got it even cheaper, to £24.65, though when I went back to book the Sheffield - Manchester leg the £8.60 TPE Standard Advance A fare had disappeared and I was left with the Saver Return fare of £10.45. Still, it goes to show how a fare of £43 can be reduced by £16.50 just by fiddling about. I will remain on the same trains throughout (obviously changing at Manchester), but showing the ticket for my next leg the other side of Sheffield in both directions.

As I'm travelling on Tuesday, the option for free postage to my home address was not offered, so I opted to collect them from the FastTicket machine at Peterborough rail station over the weekend. It's all free - all you do is insert the debit/credit card you used to purchase the tickets online, type in the unique reference number you're given and hey presto the tickets are printed for you there and then.