March 11, 2003

Eurostar Copies Discount Airline Fare Structure.

Michael Jennings | Best of Transport Blog | Eurostar | Fares and Ticketing

Until now, if you have wanted to buy a relatively cheap ticket on the Eurostar train service from London to Paris or Brussels, and you were 26 years old or over, the only way to do this was to buy a non-changeable non-refundable advance purchase ticket. For second class, these came in two types: 14 day advance purchase (costing 79 pounds return) or 7 day advance purchase (costing 95 pounds return). (Cheaper promotional fares were at times available, particularly in winter). These fares were quota controlled, but availability was generally fine, unless you were attempting to travel on a Friday evening in July or similar.

As of today, this fare structure has been replaced with a new one. Not coincidentally, this fare structure is essentially identical to those used by discount airlines.

There are now a variety of non-refundable non-changeable tickets available with fares ranging from 59 pounds return to 119 pounds return. All these fares may in theory be purchased up until the time of travel, and all are subject to quotas. On each train there are a certain number of seats allocated with at each fare level, and tickets are sold at the lowest fare level until these sell out, after which fares go up to the next fare level etc. It is possible for a return ticket to have different fare levels for the outward and return journeys. If for instance the 119 pound fare is the only one available for the outward journey but the 59 pound fare is available for the return journey, then you end up paying 89 pounds.

What this all means is that if you want to travel at peak times and pay the cheapest fare, you will likely need to book some time ahead. If you want to travel at peak times and do not mind paying a bit extra, you probably can. If you do not want to book a long time ahead but are willing to travel at off peak times, you can probably do this on a cheap fare. It also means that the operating company can change the quotas on different fares and different trains so as to encourage or discourage leisure travellers to travel at times when trains are otherwise more or less crowded. In terms of yield management, this system is vastly superior to what Eurostar had before, which is no doubt why they have adopted it, and is also no doubt why the discount airlines use it. The prices of tickets will now be a better reflection of the actual scarcity of seats, and all the usual arguments about the benefits of greater economic efficiency apply. This should in theory lead to less crowded trains at peak times and fewer empty seats at off peak times.

Of course, this type of system works best when combined with internet booking, when the customer can easily check availability for a variety of different travel possibilities. Internet booking did not exist as a possibility when Eurostar was launched a decade ago, but it now does, and to some extent they have now caught up with it. However, it took the discount airlines to show them how to do it. Even despite this, I do not think that Eurostar's website is yet as easy to use as that of, say, EasyJet, so they still have a little to learn.

Eurostar does of course sell a wide variety of other ticket types that have various levels of changeability and refundability, and that are not quota controlled. The fare structure and fare levels for these are unchanged.

The trend towards dynamic, real-time, availability based pricing continues. It exists a little in the rest of the rail system (certainly more than before privatisation) but in that case there is a lot of regulation in the way. Train companies are on the whole required to continue using the extremely complicated and outdated fare system that existed before privatisation. This has some benefits (mainly the fact that I can buy tickets for through journeys, and that I can buy a ticket for any train in the country at any ticket office) but the big disadvantage of inflexibility.

Trackbacks

Comments

Not that different to the schemes run by Virgin Trains (and others TOCs), which date back to BR days.

Posted by Tim Hall on March 12, 2003

Not that different, no. Virgin and various other TOCs have been moving in the same direction. At least in theory, though, the Virgin system is for "advance purchase" fares: the 14 day advance purchase fare is cheaper than the 7 day which is cheaper than the 3 day. In practice, even 14 days before the journey the quotas mean that the 3 day may be all you can buy, because the 14 days tickets are all sold out.

With the new Eurostar system, the advance purchase pretence has been dropped entirely and there are more fare levels. Theoretically you can buy one of these tickets five minutes before the departure gates close. The only difference between the 59 pound fare and the 69 pound fare and the 79 pound fare etc is that they have different quotas, whereas at least in theory the Virgin fares are differentiated by how many days in advance you have to buy them. The discount operate very similarly to Eurostar's new system, in that they also have lots of fare levels and (usually) no advance purchase requirements.

Posted by Michael Jennings on March 12, 2003

Although it would, in principle, be nice to see all tickets allocated on a yield management basis I can see one or two difficulties:

1. Commuter season tickets. Mind you, I suppose these could be issued on a YM basis.

2. Walk on. It is certainly one of the advantages of rail travel that with a standard ticket you can change your plans.

3. Different operators and through ticketing. What if one of them doesn't operate YM? Come to think of it is a nightmare now. Often it is cheaper to buy two entirely separate tickets than a through ticket. Why? Because if you are buying separately you can get a discounted fare.

I wonder how this sort of thing was dealt with before nationalisation.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on March 13, 2003

Even when you have season tickets and tickets walk on changeable tickets, it's pretty easy to figure out which are the busy trains, and approximately how many passengers will be on them. You then use YM to encourage your price conscious but time flexible passengers to travel at other times. Virgin are certainly now doing this.

As for through tickets, the evolution of the "Virgin Value" ticket is quite illustrative. Virgin introduced this soon after privatisation, and it was a yield managed fare that was only valid on Virgin. Since then, they have done a number of deals with other companies so that it is also valid on connecting services with a number of other companies. I went to Manchester recently, and my VV ticket was valid from East Croydon to Watford Junction on South Central and then on Virgin to Manchester. The price was the same as a VV fare from Euston to Manchester which would have been entirely on Virgin. The train companies have clearly figured out that if they offer through tickets they will sell more tickets and have done a deal. The point is that if through tickets make good business sense, companies will find a way to offer them.

Posted by Michael Jennings on March 13, 2003

Permalink
 
 IN BRIEF

November 23, 2004

'Captain commuter' wins Sydney a free day on the trains ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Darling's saver ticket for slow-train Britain - he's going to do everything but close them ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 21, 2004

Tollroads Jamaican style - worth it if only for the pic of the toll plaza ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 20, 2004

Postive externalities come to DC - sort of ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Railways safer than ever - says Christian Wolmar ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Is graffiti art? - LFTTR think the question misses the point. FWIW I think many artists clearly have a lot of talent and it's a shame they don't have an appropriate, nay, legal outlet. ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Book review - Subterranean Railway by Christian Wolmar ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

One airline, 4 crashes, 8 dead: the real price of sugar snap peas in November ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 17, 2004

British Transport Films Collection DVD Volume One - Surely a must for any transport afficionado. It will be released just in time for Christmas. ...link
MH | Comments (0)
November 15, 2004

Crossrail website ...link
MH | Comments (0)
November 11, 2004

Brake fault forces Virgin to cut speed on flagship tilting trains - you know, just for once it sounds as if the HSE could be right ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 08, 2004

TV Alert "When trains crash", 1930 Channel 5 tonight. Talk about timing ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
November 07, 2004

Ufton Nervet crash - 6 now confirmed dead ...link
PCCC | Comments (4)
November 06, 2004

One person dead as train derails ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 04, 2004

FirstGroup wants to add the tracks to its trains - that's brave ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
November 02, 2004

Car charge to rise to £6 ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 30, 2004

Psst wanna buy a railway station? ...link
MH | Comments (0)
October 26, 2004

'Kart Vader' - He tears around Quebec City at 100mph. In a go kart. At night. Wearing black. And he films it. Spotted by Jay Jardine. ...link
MH | Comments (0)
October 24, 2004

The downside of auto-mobile bans - drivers text instead ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Councils ban shrines to road crash victims - a story that neatly combines both transport and the issue of the day: mawkish sentimentality ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 20, 2004

The air hostess, the long hair and the sun roof - one of the more imaginative ways of staying awake at the wheel. ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Wheelchair-using MP travelled in 'cattle truck' - so, that's just the same as the rest of us then ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

23 escape from burning train ...link
PCCC | Comments (3)

Wikipedia accuracy under fire - so, it's back on with the Glossary? ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 19, 2004

Rail chief quits after four months - walking away from £130,000. Golly ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 14, 2004

New comment on old posting - Tim Hall explains the story of the Highland Railway, its new locos and its soon-to-be-ex-Chief Mechanical engineer ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Out now: DVD version of leaves on the line ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 13, 2004

New link - Transport Watch UK. Lots of facts, lot of comparisons. Doesn't look good for rail ...link
PCCC | Comments (4)
October 11, 2004

Take the car and save the planet - walking kills, apparently ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Hybrids better than the real thing - golly ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Don't invest in mega-projects - says Peter Gordon ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 05, 2004

Prescott backs plan to reopen branch rail lines - well, he says he does ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
October 04, 2004

New Glossary Entry - the Advanced Passenger Train ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 03, 2004

People are building their own speed cameras - One fellow is even selling fully functioning ones ...link
MH | Comments (0)

Pendolinos and Voyagers may prove to be one of privatisation's disasters - says Christian Wolmar ...link
PCCC | Comments (11)

Omedetō gozaimasu! - Tech Central Station on the 40th anniversary of the Shinkansen ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 02, 2004

Compulsory purchase to go - in US? Johnathan Pearce has some musings ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
October 01, 2004

Indian railway runs out of wheels - because it refuses to import ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

All for sprawl - Tyler Cowen links to a couple of articles including one from the NY Times magazine which is attracting a lot of attention ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Underground maps as art - according to Brian ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 30, 2004

Recent comment - Uncle Roger on the difficulty in working out accurate subsidy figures ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Europe by train - Tim Hall on Stephen Karlson's adventures ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Carpool lanes = communist gulags - Tim Hall is beginning to get it, possibly ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 29, 2004

P&O axes 1,200 jobs as ferry travel sails into past ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
September 27, 2004

Hurtling towards a £7.6bn bill at full tilt - Alistair Osborne on the WCRM fiasco. Actually, I thought £7.6bn was on the low side ...link
PCCC | Comments (2)
September 26, 2004

A double-decked shame - RJ3 laments the passing of the Routemaster. It's those EU bastards, I tell you ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Tilting trains are rubbish - according to Ross Clark. Now he tells us ...link
PCCC | Comments (2)

Delays plummet by 28% - says Network Rail ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 25, 2004

New glossary item - the Health and Safety Executive - in which I demonstrate my almost complete ignorance of this institution ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Scant improvement in train times - according to latest figures ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 22, 2004

EU plan will hit safe women drivers - and it's all in the name of sex equality ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Unions gang up to demand railway renationalisation - they mean it isn't already? ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
September 21, 2004

Top car makers support road-jam charging - Ford, GM, Honda, Daimler ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Journey times cut as 125mph tilting train sets record - after £8bn and the odd bankruptcy tilting trains that actually tilt are finally here ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 18, 2004

ABD calls for environmental audit of public transport - all those particulates ...link
PCCC | Comments (2)

Camera Partnerships must come clean on real causes of accidents - says ABD ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 16, 2004

The Green Quadratic - ASI paper on planning from 1988. Now available on-line ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 14, 2004

Up with conductors - they're really good, you know ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Speeding Britons fined in car race to Spain - "Among the cars were Ferraris, Porsches and Rolls-Royces." ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

MPs to lose free airport parking - oh, how my heart bleeds ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

The case against driving licences - Paul Clark in Lew Rockwell ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 10, 2004

Drivers trade privacy for insurance discounts ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 08, 2004

Free mints infuriate delayed commuters - some even threw them away, ingrates ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Privatize the roads! Liberate the streets! All we have to lose are our parking tickets! - Anthony Gregory in Lew Rockwell ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

M6 Toll hits 10m journey mark - er, about a month ago ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 07, 2004

California high-speed rail plan - all sorts of claims being made but Peter Gordon doesn't like the precedents ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 06, 2004

Swedish farmer fined 1,211 kronor for illegally parking a snowmobile in Warwick - Krister Nylander lives 205 north of Stockholm and has never been to Warwick. "They can wait till Hell freezes over and I can get to Britain on my snowmobile to pay the fine.” ...link
MH | Comments (0)
September 05, 2004

"Obsession is not too strong a word to describe how railway enthusiasts feel about railways" - Matthew Parris goes to Peru and meets some trainspotters ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 03, 2004

Hidden costs do not justify the level of tax on petrol in Britain - says Graham Seargeant ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Shovelling cash - utilities to pay for digging up roads ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Alistair Morton, builder of the Channel Tunnel, is dead ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Government 'willed' Railtrack to fail - says Corbett ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Cyclists saddled with seafront speed trap - in Bournemouth ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)

Historic Amsterdam tram photos Aaaah. Where's amg going to pitch up next? ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Why so little US electrification? - Tim Hall ponders the answer ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 02, 2004

London Underground Map - as it really is. ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Electric v steam - in 1923. But who won ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Freight or passenger in the US? - they're in conflict. Stephen Karlson considers the options ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
September 01, 2004

Fares and charge up in London - says Livingstone ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

'Fair fines' planned for speeding drivers ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Railtrack is cleared over Hatfield crash ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 31, 2004

Thousands 'ready to quit Aslef' - where would we be without brotherly love ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 30, 2004

Rural watchdog attacks road sign blight - See it's not just me who can't abide the avalanche of street furniture. ...link
MH | Comments (0)

What the traffic will bear - Bob Poole discusses the merits of tolling ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Prague trams - photos. Aaah ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 24, 2004

What if you can't drive? - Catallarchy's Sean Lynch considers the options ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

97% of accidents within speed limit - according to the ABD ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
August 22, 2004

Prosecute motorway lane hogs - says RAC ...link
PCCC | Comments (3)
August 20, 2004

Radio tags for congestion charge? ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

World's longest road opens - in Russia ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Sprawl is cheap - says Iain Murray ...link
PCCC | Comments (1)
August 19, 2004

Strike threat to BA and Eurostar ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Toll roads are safer - at least according to my reading of this Marginal Revolution post ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Peking metro to hit 1000km mark - I'm not sure even London's is that long ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 15, 2004

Squander Two calmly talks about speed cameras ...link
MH | Comments (1)

Parking anarchy in St Albans - Police withdraw traffic wardens, Herts council won't have any until October, it's bedlam! ...link
MH | Comments (0)

The future of transport - as seen from the past ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Trains less efficient than cars - yes, I know, it's old news ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)

Ferry solution, please - Eamonn Butler wonders how you could introduce competition to a subsidised ferry service in the Western Isles ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)
August 14, 2004

Drink less, speed less, save on insurance - Marginal Revolution has the story ...link
PCCC | Comments (0)