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Rail companies’ confusing train ticket prices

First class tickets sold for standard train trips

A train pulled in at a station

Rail companies are selling first-class tickets for routes that don’t have first-class services. The difference in cost between standard and first class tickets, which in practice entitle the holder to the same service, could be as much as 63%.

Which? discovered that First Capital Connect charges £13.40 for a standard anytime single ticket from Luton Airport Parkway to Wimbledon. This entitles passengers to sit in decommissioned first-class carriages. The first class ticket is £21.40, but does not offer any additional benefits. 

First Capital Connect told us: ‘The ticket is available because you can travel first class for parts of your journey to Wimbledon if you choose.’ 

When we checked for the most convenient way to use the first-class service, you would have to get off at St Pancras, walk to the underground, take a 12-minute tube ride to Vauxhall at a cost of £4 (£1.80 with an Oyster card), and get back on the train again.

No first-class seats

Southeastern Railways charges 30% more for a single first class ticket between London St Pancras International and Dover Priory. However, the High Speed trains that run directly between these two stations have no first class seating.

A Southeastern spokesman said: ‘A first-class ticket will provide you with a choice of using the mainline first-class or the high-speed service without the need to pay the supplement.’

The mainline service does not run from St Pancras International. Customers would need to get to an alternative London terminal, such as Charing Cross or Cannon Street, to catch a train that has first-class seating. And the mainline service from one of these London stations to Dover takes around 40 minutes longer.

Train problems

Do you know of any train companies that aren’t playing fair with their tickets? Please email news@which.co.uk.

To find out how to complain about poor service or unfair pricing, read the Which? guide to complaining to companies.

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