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Off Peak Rail Fares To London Waterloo To Rise By ‘Staggering’ 27%

Published on: 5 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 5 Sep, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

South Western Railway (SWR) off-peak fares from Guildford to London Waterloo will be “rising by a staggering 27%” from Monday, September 6 said Jeremy Varnes, campaign coordinator for SWR Watch.

Guildford railway station entrance.

He said SWR were “quietly changing ticketing restrictions” meaning a significant fare rise, from “£17.60 to £22.50”, for potentially thousands of passengers.

“The first service of the day from Guildford to obtain the cheapest ticket will be the stopping service at 13:04 and the fast service at 13:35. This has been barely advertised by SWR. It will come as a shock to many passengers when they attempt to buy their ticket.”

With rail fares increasing by 20% in the last 20 years compared to a 15% decrease in the cost of motoring, Mr Varnes said it was not the right approach to win back customers and encourage a modal shift away from car use.

The government’s 2021 publication, Decarbonising Transport, says “we must make public transport, cycling and walking the natural first choice for all who can take it”.

SWR has said passenger numbers “will not return to pre-Covid levels for the foreseeable future”. Road traffic levels are already at or above pre-pandemic levels.

A spokesperson for South Western Railway said: “Following customer feedback, we are simplifying our Super Off Peak tickets to provide greater clarity and cheaper fares for nearly three quarters of customers.

“For the majority of journeys, we offered two Super Off Peak Day return products – weekday and weekend – which have both had different time restrictions and price points.

“For journeys of up to an hour, we have replaced these with two new, simpler products, Evening Out and Sunday Out. On Sundays, time restrictions have been removed, making this cheaper fare available all day.

“On journeys of over an hour, we have introduced a Super Off Peak (Period) Return, providing more flexibility so customers can return on any day for up to a month without needing to buy a more expensive ticket.

“We have also introduced Evening Out on routes which did not previously have Weekday Super Off Peak products, such as Woking to Southampton and Portsmouth, again reducing the cost of journeys for our customers.

“For customers travelling into Waterloo on a weekday between noon and 2pm, changing their arrival time to after 2pm could see them save money compared to the current Super Off Peak offering. If a customer is unable to arrive after 2pm they will see a small increase in cost, as little as £2 each way for a customer from Woking as an example.

“We are confident that our customers will welcome the greater clarity and better value for money that these changes will bring.”

Mr Varnes said additional complexity to the railway’s already “convoluted, archaic pricing” was an “unwelcome development”.

He added: “Worse still, SWR is currently consulting on plans to make the current Covid timetable reductions permanent.  There is now an urgent need for politicians across the political divide to get involved, highlight the loss of services and increased cost to rail users while pushing for greater investment and reform.

“The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has repeatedly promised the public a green recovery. This isn’t it.”

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