12 December 2010

Rover Restriction

RailUK forum has detailed information affecting the All-lines Railrover (ALR) ticket, which offers either a week or a fortnight's unlimited, unrestricted travel on the entire national rail network. Sadly the news is not good (and has been mooted for a number of months now): a weekday morning time restriction.

An ALR will not be valid on Mondays-Fridays for boarding or alighting train services operated by CrossCountry, East Coast, East Midlands Trains and Virgin Trains before 10.00 Mondays – Fridays at Birmingham New Street, Bedford, London Euston, London Kings Cross, London St Pancras, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway, Milton Keynes Central, Stevenage and Watford Junction.

This is better than a blanket ban on the ALR's usage before 1000 on weekdays, but nonetheless problematic for many people for whom an ALR is actually cheaper than a season ticket and, of course, for the thousands of rail enthusiasts who purchase the ticket each and every year.

During the summer, rumours were abound that the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) was to simply prevent holders of an ALR from travelling on any long-distance 'express' train operating company's service but this never materialised though with the latest news being made known, we suspect that a fairer imposition on the ultimate train ticket was being negotiated.

Myself and a LEYTR Associate, who's a train driver, had planned on a second LEYTR Railrover from next spring (read our first one here), though our rough itinerary has had to be drastically altered on a number of occasions to take into account the potential for this 'third way' restriction being introduced. And as with any 'third way' it's littered with holes. There is, for example, nothing to prevent a passenger from boarding at Birmingham International pre-1000 on a Tuesday. An ALR holder could board at Bedford heading south and claim he joined the train at East Midlands Parkway or Leicester.

And the question of why such a restriction is warranted needs to be asked. The restriction clearly depicts very busy interchanges where commuters are aplenty and the cost of travelling is incredibly high in relation to other times of the day. But are the numbers of ALRs really so high that users are preventing people whose annual season ticket costs £6k from a seat? The ticket is not officially advertised (we believe only Northern make reference to it in one of its publications) and so its popularity is at the Nadir of what it could be. It could be conceivable that the ALR might be the victim of its own success if there'd been a massive push to advertise it but the only person who did that was the then Transport Minister Lord Adonis. Barry Doe occasionally cites examples when an ALR is cheaper than a weekly season ticket between two points for those commuting sporadically, but other than that it is the industry's best-kept secret.

In the mean time we can but hope this is just a rumour floated by ATOC to see what opposition there is likely to be to the watered-down restriction.

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