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Train companies extending peak charging hours, survey finds

The Telegraph reports that a survey by Which? found that East Coast, is charging its highest fares on trains running from just before 3pm and Virgin from just after. CrossCountry classifies peak services as starting at 3pm.

“The general trend is getting worse for the passenger,” said Richard Dilks, who carried out the research.

Commuters are already bracing themselves for heavy rises in commuter fares, which are controlled by the Government, in January.

But this survey appears to confirm that the leisure and occasional travellers are also being hit hard as train operators tweak restrictions to boost earnings

The trend has also seen companies cutting back on when the cheapest tickets are available, according to Colin Foxall, chairman of the consumer watchdog, Passenger Focus.

”We have been critical of those train companies’ which have tinkered with off-peak ticket restrictions and have effectively forced passengers into buying more expensive tickets.

“Passengers tell us value for money is their top priority for improvement. With less than half of all passengers satisfied with value for money, train companies have a long way to go to address concerns.”

A spokesman for Virgin Trains defended the company’s decision to start the evening peak at 3pm.

“We carry 26 million passengers every year,” he said. “We have increased capacity but it is still being outstripped by demand.

“The industry standard is that you must have the same peak times every day, which has to be set by the busiest day of the week which is Friday.”

A spokesman for East Coast said the restrictions only applied to one type of ticket – the Super Off-Peak.

“We have a range of ticket options available to our customers which offer far greater flexibility within this time period.”

A CrossCountry spokesman added: "CrossCountry sets is fares to reflect its commercial position and the journeys customers are making. The Which? article misrepresents off peak travel on CrossCountry services.

"The only afternoon fares restricted on our trains are for Off Peak Day tickets, which are typically for journeys of up to 40 miles and predominately used by people undertaking days out for leisure. CrossCountry Off Peak period returns are not subject to any restriction in the afternoon."


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