Online rail agent The Trainline has quietly brought in booking fees. It now means passengers might find it cheaper to book their tickets direct with the train companies rather than through a “third party” like The Trainline.
Until recently, The Trainline processed rail bookings free of charge, but in an about-turn it has begun charging customers £1 to post a ticket and 50p to use a self-service machine (for ticket collection). There is also a fee of £2.50 for customers purchasing their tickets by credit card.
A spokesperson for The Trainline said: “Until now we have covered the large majority of costs associated with handling and fulfilment of all these options. However, to continue funding innovations using cutting-edge technology that provides ease, convenience and the cheapest fares to travellers, we now need to pass on a minimal charge to our customers.
“We, like many agency businesses, can rely less and less on commission income and, regrettably, this puts us in a position where we need to charge fees in order to provide the best possible service for our customers.”
Is this a wise move for The Trainline given that its decision to impose charges comes at a time when the train firms’ own websites make it easier for passengers to book directly with them?
Several rail franchises changed hands at the end of last year, including East Midlands Trains (previously Midland Mainline), National Express East Coast (formerly GNER) and Cross Country Trains (previous name Virgin Cross Country).
National Express East Coast has gone a step further. It has brought in a new range of promotional fares which, when booked online, undercut The Trainline’s prices by 10 per cent.
Report by Alex McWhirter