Firstly, I would like to welcome the newest member of staff at In defence of First Great Western. My flatmate, who has now been press-ganged into bringing me toasted sandwiches while I write these. Let's have 0.5 secs silent contemplation of the hard work that he does.
This edition of reader mail is devoted to Tim and his comments on tickets in response to my last post. They can be found here. (Scroll way down). Lets go to the questions.
1. Off peak season tickets. Interesting question. It is true that regular season tickets are relatively cheap and a lot better option if you travel regularly. The fact that they are valid at any time also sweetens the deal (if you fancy travelling the route to work on yourday off) and that is one reason why they are not offered. The other reason is that there is little demand for them. There are not many customers who ravel regularly enough to make a season ticket worthwhile but make all their journeys off-peak. Season tickets are aimed at the commuter market and there aren't that many with a nice enough work schedule that they can avoid rush hour entirely.
2. Off peak returns. The official explanation for this ones that the return portion of the ticket s heavily discounted in order to encourage people to make both legs of their journey with us. Personally, I do not see the logic as the price difference is usually 10p and it costs more than that to take a passenger on a journey. I suppose it can help to develop loyalty and stop people straying to coaches but that only really works if the journey goes well. I think it is more likely that people would not be willing to pay twice the price of an off-peak single for a return ticket and reducing the single price so that a double price return would be reasonably priced is not cost effective.
3. Off-peak singles. That is a good point and was one of the thoughts behind making the new range of advcance pircahse fares single only. This allowed people to mix and match their tickets and also, if they could only get a coach on one leg, it discouraged them from getting the coach on both legs because all the single tickets were prohibatively priced.
There is a problem as you point out in that these advance purchase fares are not offered on all journeys and with the rail-link coach, only returns are offered (on the theory that if you go to an airport, sooner or later, you'll be coming back). I agree that there are a multitude of situations where an off peak single that was half the price of the return would be useful but again, it somes down to money.
With peak time returns, the single is, of course, half the price of the return, because the amount of money involved is larger. It would not make sense to have a standard open return 10p more than a single. Nor would people stand for having a single 10p less than the current return price. In addition to that, we like to encourage people out of the peak times, so making the single half the return encourages them to only go peak one way if that's all they need.
Good points there and I hope the answers helped. I will see if I can bring the points on off-peak singles to the attention of those who make such decisions and we may be able to get somehting done for the future.