The Great Train Robbery

In these hard times, the cost of commuting counts for a huge amount when you’re on a budget. That’s why many train passengers were furious last week when it was revealed that inflation figures are set to rise rail fares by an eye-watering 8%.

Here at Cactus Search, we think that’s a tad unfair. And to add insult to injury, it was then revealed that many providers are taking advantage of the rules surrounding peak and off-peak ticket selling – to the enormous disadvantage of the customer.

Even Thomas couldn't believe it.

For instance, according to an analysis by The Sunday Times, some customers can be charged maximum rush hour fares despite travelling well after 11am. On other trains, peak afternoon sessions can begin as early as 2.40pm. Their study shows that:

Virgin Trains now runs a morning peak service from Rugby station that starts at 6.03am and continues until 11.24am. A return to London at this time costs £116, compared with £35.80 for non-peak. At Watford Junction, Virgin’s peak afternoon services start at 2.39pm and do not finish until 6.37pm.

This means that for many passengers, it’s almost impossible to find an off-peak ticket – so the price of a train commute is sky high. Virgin Trains responded to passengers’ frustrations, saying that “a lot of people can be flexible in their journey or book in advance to get lower fares” – but for those facing a daily commute, on overcrowded trains, at “peak” times, that’s little consolation.

Especially when this happens.

For instance, if you’re a Call Centre Team Leader living in Stoke-On-Trent, travelling into Birmingham every day, on a salary of £25k, a yearly season ticket to work will cost you over 10% of your yearly pay – even before tax!

And if you travel regularly to and from London, you’ll be hit in a similar fashion. Last year, taking the 0915 from London Euston to Manchester, returning at 0855 the next day, would have cost £66. Now that Virgin has extended its peak hours, the same ticket costs £262.

And if you’re a driver, things aren’t much easier – in the last year, petrol prices have rocketed. That’s not just backed up by the fact that our office is looking on to a petrol station – according to the AA Fuel Price Index, over the last year average prices have changed as follows:

  • Unleaded – up 18.1p per litre, from 117.5 to 135.6
  • Diesel – up 19.8p per litre, from 119.9 to 139.7
  • Super Unleaded – up 18p per litre, from 124.9 to 142.9
Maybe we'll just stay at home...

These enormous hikes in cost are making it more difficult both for candidates trying to commute, and for clients trying to attract the best candidates to their roles. We’ve found that generally, candidates are more willing to completely relocate than to commute – with the cost of travelling being a major reason for this.

With the government trying to persuade commuters to ditch their cars in favour of public transport, it’s difficult to then justify enormous price hikes in rail fares – and it seems to us like a saga that’s just going to run and run.

So… How do you deal with the cost of commuting? Is there any way to make the journey to work any more cost-effective?

Cactus Search is the leading provider of Call and Contact Centre Management candidates to some of the most prestigious companies in the UK and Internationally.

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