Over the weekend many of you will have read about the plans by UK rail to scrap return fares.
Many mainstream media got the news wrong when they referred to one-way fares. There already are cheaper one-way fares … these are the popular Advance tariffs.
Possibly as early as tomorrow transport secretary Mark Harper will announce this development plus other rail fare changes.
Why is this important? Because these one-way tariffs will affect promotional return fares (which can only be booked as a return) and will be offered on a walk-up basis. Advance fares by contrast must be booked ahead.
Currently on most mainline routes the cheapest walk-up fare involves buying a return ticket.
Yes you can still buy a walk-up one-way but this can cost as little as £1 less than the return.
Government-managed LNER (which operates over the East Coast Mainline) introduced these fares some time ago and has found carryings have risen (although some revenue must have been lost).
I was trying to compare prices today but I found it impossible because the peak hour starts within the hour (I am writing this just after 1400) and after that the Advance tariffs are displayed.
And that is why both mainstream media and the travelling public have become so confused.
When all is said and done what UK rail is doing now is what low-cost airlines did in the mid-1990s.
In other words they began pricing travel on a one-way basis rather than expect travellers to buy a promotional return if they wanted to save (as the big national airlines did at that time).