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FARE BODGERS; Wrong advice on tickets so costly.

Byline: MARK ELLIS

RAIL passengers are missing out on the cheapest fares because of poor advice from staff, an undercover study reveals today.

Nearly two-thirds of station clerks and 43% of operators on the rail inquiry phone line got it wrong when asked for the cheapest fare for 150 train journeys.

In nine out of 10 cases, a passenger hoping to make two round trips from Oxford to Cardiff in a week was advised to buy two return tickets costing pounds 200 each.

Just one clerk advised that buying a weekly season ticket would save pounds 112. Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said: "If people who do this for a living can't find the cheapest fare, what hope do passengers have?" The magazine also surveyed 1,515 people who had travelled by train in the past 12 months and only half felt confident that they knew how to get the best possible fare for their journey.

Last night Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, said: "There is no stroke the train operators won't pull to bleed an extra few quid out of the public."

The Mirror revealed last year how passengers can save up to 60% by "split-ticketing" - breaking your journey into parts.

But booking clerks and inquiry operators will only tell you the cheapest fare for the whole non-stop journey.

However, a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "This report is seriously misleading and misrepresentative.

Asking 150 questions on unrealistic and obscure scenarios cannot come close to giving a representative view of the 1.3 billion journeys that are made every year by train.

"The researchers haven't actually asked for the cheapest ticket in all the scenarios and, even where they have done, they have explicitly excluded the cheapest fares."

60%

How much canny passengers can save by 'split ticketing' rather than buying one fare from ticket booth

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 24, 2011
Words:325
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