Stop train companies profiteering and free the fares
We're quite partial to the occasional rant about train operators, and it's good to know we have company. The Penalty Fare Appeal Support blog is maintained by a group of ex-railway staff from all areas of the rail industry, and concerns itself with all aspects of consumer travel on the railways, as well as providing help in appealing against penalty fares.
Their latest action is to petition the Government into releasing the National Rail Fares Manual (NFM) to the public free of charge. The manual used to be freely available online, but changes in the past year mean you'll have to dig down the back of the sofa if you want it now; the manual is published on CD-ROM three times a year, and to purchase all three versions, with VAT plus postage and packaging will cost you £44. The information is still free if you happen to be the Government of course - they don't pay for a manual.
As well as arguing the information should be free of charge to the public, the group disagrees with the Association of Train Operating Companies' (ATOC) stance that all the information is available through the National Rail website - "most of the time [it] doesn’t offer the cheapest fares for passengers," says the blog. There used to be a link to the manual from the blog, but ATOC requested it be removed.
It's this impenetrable monopoly in which ATOC owns all data associated with timetables that allowed them to have one of the iPhone's most popular apps - My Rail Lite - removed from the App Store, in order to create their own app which they still flog for a fiver - the National Rail Enquiries app is currently generating several thousand pounds a day in profit for National Rail. As a curious aside, the developer of the My Rail Lite app is adamant he had a licensing with National Rail to publish timetable information on mobile devices, but National Rail disagreed that a mobile licensing deal covered the iPhone. Er.
Given that major routes such as the East Coast Main Line are now under Government control again, is there really any argument for such blatant profiteering? If you'd like to learn more and sign the petition, head over to the Penalty Fare Appeal Support blog.