How can Southern Rail charge two prices for the same journey? | Money

For some time Southern Railway has offered off-peak day-return tickets from Christ’s Hospital (near Horsham, West Sussex) to London Victoria for £23.10, alongside a super off-peak for just £16.20, on Saturdays and Sundays with no time restrictions on either. Many passengers who don’t travel regularly could be unaware of the cheaper deal. It must all add up in terms of the number of passengers unwittingly paying more than they need to. It seems very unfair.

AB, Horsham, West Sussex

This comes as the railway industry is poised to oversee a radical – and long overdue – overhaul of fares, with proposals mooted to include a “best fare guarantee” meaning all customers would automatically pay the cheapest fare available at the time of purchase.

However, the anomaly you have drawn attention to is due to the mind-boggling complexity of the franchising system. Southern is the brand name used by Govia Thameslink Railway on southern routes of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise.

GTR explains: “Wherever a passenger buys their ticket (from a self-service machine, ticket office or online) they will be offered the super off-peak fare. While there are no time restrictions on this at weekends for journeys solely on GTR services, we need to retain the off-peak option in case the journey is partly on the route of another operator that does have time restrictions on super off-peak tickets. We are planning to change the screens on self-service machines later this year so that the cheapest fare will always be displayed first.”

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