Inflexible travel for flexible workers

One thing we never really cracked at Metro/WYCA was what to do about bus and train fares for people who don’t work 9-to-5, Monday to Friday.

Partly this was because we had no powers to set fares – that’s down to the individual bus and train operators. In theory, all of the bus operators should be charging different fares because anything else would be a cartel; in practice… well.

And the bus service is deregulated, not franchised, so different operators could run the same route at different times of the day. This stuffs up the passenger somewhat, when all they want to do is catch a bus or train, flexibly, for the least amount of cash.

The nearest we got was what we did with the MetroDay and Metro Weekender tickets. Now I have to pay for my travel as and when, I buy MetroDay tickets in advance for my MCard or buy a Metro Weekender on the first bus I catch if travelling on a Saturday and Sunday (like last weekend).

A day is not 24 hours

I was reminded of this small failure for a couple of London-based reasons.

In mid-September I’m attending an event at Westminster, and will be staying overnight beforehand. I’ll arrive around 4pm, cross London to my hotel, attend the lunch the next day and leg it over to LKX for the 1505 back to civilisation.

My Underground travel will cost me the equivalent of two One Day Travelcards – but my travel will take place in less than 24 hours. Oyster can cap my fares to a daily maximum but not a 24-hour period. That requires some political will to make the software changes, so I’ll not hold my breath. And that’s assuming that the operators want to take the financial hit, however small.

It’s an idea though.

Regulations, regulations, regulated

The other reason I thought of this was that a friend passed me details of a job in the centre of London. I’ve been ignoring London-based roles as I don’t want to move there and the commute seems a little excessive at six hours per day depending on their location in London. Plus, I quite like this flat and location, and my mum’s 78 now so I don’t want a permanent-ish move away.

But I began to wonder… what are my alternatives? What’s the cheapest option? Could I, for example, spend three days in London and two at their York office? I pulled out some ticket costs.

Assuming I need to get to London for around 9am, and booked the same train down (0640) and back (2005) with plenty of notice, then my ticket cost would be Anytime Single + Advance Single = £136.50. That’s £682.50 each week, or £2,730 each month. Call it £27,300 for the year (allow for holidays, working out of the office, etc.).

If I worked three days in London, the annual fare would be in the region of £16,380.

The season ticket – which is more flexible, because I can choose which train I catch – is £13,928. The Advance tickets aren’t regulated, the season ticket is.

If you want a good explanation of regulated versus unregulated fares, have a look at this House of Commons Briefing from earlier this year. Note that there have been moves to improve things for flexible workers, all of which have come to naught.

Random closing thought

I know from experience that Leeds to London Standard Class is fine in the morning, but London to Leeds in the evening you really want to do in First Class, thus avoiding the scrum of people bagging seats for their short-ish hops to Stevenage and Peterborough, as well as getting fed, watered and a table to do some work. Sadly, you can’t do a half-and-half, or buy two one-way season tickets.

It’s an idea though.

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