17 May 2010

A welcome about-turn

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) had planned on slipping in a last-minute restriction to one if its ticket types that would have serious knock-on effects to those wanting to use it: they planned on introducing a 10am start time to the All-lines Railrover.

As anyone interested in the rail industry will know, the All-lines Railrover (ALR) is the ultimate rover ticket for use on the railways here on mainland Britain. It affords the user unmetered access to the national rail network (with the usual Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect Heyes-Heathrow restriction) and, until publicised by Lord Adonis last year, had remained at a static price for a good number of years.

The ALR receives no official advertisement, though Northern at least mention it in its publicity. ATOC says the financial reimbursement to operators for the tickets use and the manner in which it could fairly charge train operators for a leaflet's production are factors why it is the least-advertised ticket in the country. Oh, and the fact that it is often cheaper than return fares issued by individual train operators.

You'll remember the, now consigned to history, £1,002 fare from Newquay to Kyle of Lochalsh, well for £650 the traveller could purchase a same class ALR that would be valid for 7 days, not just a return journey. A Standard Class version costs less, at £430 (or £284 for children and all types of Railcard except Young Person).

£430 for a week's travel on virtually all rail services in the UK is exceptional value, and travellers to this country from mainland Europe wouldn't necessarily think the UK has the most expensive railway in the developed world. But unless they are personal friends of Barry Doe, are willing to search through a plethora of online forums in hope of finding a ticket that meets their needs other than those offered by train operators, or are avids of this blog(!), how are they to know?

So you can see how a 10am start time restriction to the ALR could have fundamentally affected its usefulness and versatility. The caveat was that the restriction would only apply to 'intercity' services - CrossCountry, East Coast, Hull Trains, Grand Central, Virgin Trains, East Midlands Trains and First Great Western. So, not many then! Small comfort for someone who wants to travel any significant distance before 10am. At least the Cornish branch lines would be unaffected (and, actually, most of the LEYTR area)!

The 10am restriction would have killed off the ALR - something ATOC will have been well aware of. The ALR is also not regulated, so can have its price altered and restrictions applied to ATOC's heart's content. Perhaps the underlying reasoning for applying the 10am start time is to stop those savvy commuters who now purchase it rather than a weekly season ticket from being able to do so? A 14-day version is also available, offering substantial savings on a Manchester-London season ticket if purchased consecutively over a fortnight. A First Class version (£990 for 2 weeks) would also mean the Manchester-London commuter would never have to visit Asda again, as he/she would be afforded Virgin Train's 'all you can eat for free' service.

To compensate, ATOC had prepared to reduce the prices of all ALR versions, but in the event this was not to be as they changed their minds and the ALR is to remain as it is and for the same price as last year.


Cynics cited ATOC dipping its toe in the water by floating plans on effectively declassifying the ALR to an off-peak ticket and judging by the response from Tweeters and members of Internet groups, they backed down. It would be nice to think that it was 'the blogs what won it', but in truth, we'll never know.

The All-lines Railrover is available in either a 7- or 14-day version and is priced for either 1 adult or 1 child/Railcard holder. It affords the holder to free, unlimited travel on all train operating company services throughout the national rail network and on the Ffestiniog Railway. The First Class version entitles the holder to exactly the same gratuities afforded to First Class single/return/season ticket holders. The ALR does not permit travel on London Underground, PTE light rail systems, Eurostar services, Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect between Heyes/Harlington-Heathrow. Young Person Railcards are not accepted.

7 day Standard Class - £430 adult, £284 child/Railcard
14 day Standard Class - £650 adult, 429 child/Railcard
7 day First Class - £650 adult £429 child/Railcard
14 day First Class - £990 adult, £653 child/Railcard

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The All Line Rail Rover is now being advertised. Along with other types of Rover tickets it is featured in the new "National Rail Guide to Tickets" which should have been distributed to all stations and outlets by now, ahving been published in May.

The information directs you to the National Rail website which, since its revamp, is not the easiest of places to navigate. However, these Rovers are at the top of the list when you open the given page.