Single train fare prices to be cut?

Let's start with the good bit: the Coalition is looking at forcing down the cost of single rail fares. In many cases, single fares are almost as expensive as return tickets: clearly a ridiculous situation.

However new reductions in single fares will almost certainly be accompanied by... MORE prices hikes in returns fares to pay for the new changes.

Two for price of one

A Department for Transport report (PDF) already admits the situation with single fare prices is odd, and gives the impression of poor value for rail users - especially when, in some cases, two singles can be cheaper than a return.

"This may leave passengers feeling," it says in a recent report, that they are paying more than they should, for example where a return is only marginally more expensive than a single." New fiddling with ticket prices will not take away from the fact that train fares could rise by almost 10% next year for some trips.

Confusion and complexity

To some extent, some train operators are trying to deal with the situation. Virgin has 'half-price off-peak' single fares (though online only). First Great Western has switched the price of single off-peak fares to just over half the price of the return off-peak fare on some long-distance journeys.

However for many train users, the existing fare system remains highly complex, and difficult to find the best value fares. This complexity can work to the advantage of train companies, enabling them to show regulators they offer a certain amount of tickets at modest prices - even though their low fares are often not easy to find or understand.

Gravy train

Meanwhile five Network Rail bosses will receive £11million in total pay during the next three years if they meet their targets. Many rail users will likely argue that these execs - on basic salaries of between £348,000 and £577,000 a year - are paid generously enough.

All five execs are entitled to a cash car allowance, private medical insurance, pension provision, life assurance, a bi-annual health assessment, plus... discounted rail travel. You can read about their entitlements in more detail here.

10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs

10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs