Commuters heading to London are used to full trains on the morning and evening peaks – and having to pay a full fare for travelling on them.
But about half the trains running at these hours are nearly empty, yet passengers are still charged “peak-rate” fares if they turn up to catch them.
It has been highlighted by campaign group Rail Future on the front of its latest newsletter “railwatch” featuring an InterCity train leaving Liverpool Street for Ipswich and Norwich on October 21.
Peak fares apply on all trains running to and from London every week day until 9.31am – a single ticket to Ipswich costs £49.20 and a return costs £76.70. After 9.30am the cost falls to £40.10 for an off-peak return.
Ipswich Borough Council’s portfolio holder for transport, Phil Smart, is a leading member of Rail Future in the region and said the anomaly had been highlighted – and Greater Anglia had some of the strictest rules on peak time operations.
He said: “Peak time from Liverpool Street goes until 9.31am and the trains often run almost empty. I don’t know if lower fares would attract many more passengers, but it does look a bit odd to have empty ‘peak’ services.
“Other London stations have shorter peak times. I can’t see why this region cannot follow suit.”
Trains from Paddington to the south west end their peak time at 8.10am and at Waterloo, with trains to Hampshire and Dorset, the peak time ends at 8.15am. At Kings Cross with trains to Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland, the peak time ends just after 9am.
A spokeswoman for Greater Anglia said the trains would have to leave Liverpool Street anyway to form later services and leave space for new, full, trains arriving in the capital. And there were advance-purchase deals available.
She said: “We offer great value fares on less busy trains coming out of London in the morning peak. You can buy an advance ticket from £9.00 to £13.80 travelling from London to Ipswich and Norwich, depending on the time you travel and availability.”