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End of the 7pm Friday crush at Euston? 

For many years the scene at London’s Euston station on Friday nights at 7pm has come to epitomise everything that is wrong with the rail ticketing system. Off-peak tickets became valid after a ban during the afternoon ‘peak’. This cliff edge pricing meant that advance purchase options up to that point in the day had remained pricey, pushing people towards the later trains. 

Many passengers like the flexibility of a turn-up-and-go purchase and the options those tickets offer for the Sunday return journey. Advance tickets are great, but don’t suit everyone.  

Consequently, the 19.00 and 19.03 Euston to Manchester and Birmingham, and other trains soon after, became jam packed. People sprinted for seats. While the situation had become better managed, in the past it verged on dangerous.  

Last week Virgin announced that, following a trial, off-peak tickets will in future be available from 09.30 every Friday. At a stroke and entirely within their gift Virgin has massively widened choice and improved the lot of literally thousands of passengers. Journeys have become more spread through the day. As more people work flexibly, or from home, this type of choice becomes more important. Presumably, Virgin makes more money now as more people overall are travelling. 

While we continue to work with the Rail Delivery Group on the Fares Review, train companies need not wait. Virgin has shown what can be done. Other train companies have also made incremental improvements to ticket sales and restrictions, but more can be done. Come on! 

Only one mystery remains. Why did it take Virgin so long to do this?


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