Rail users led astray

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Rail passengers are routinely paying too much for their tickets due to poor advice from national rail enquiries services (NRES) and station staff, says a report from consumer group Which?

Staff at stations and NRES were questioned by undercover "mystery shoppers" to see whether they pointed customers in the right direction. They were tested on the cheapest tickets and the best routes to take. In roughly one in two cases, the questioner was given the wrong answer and could have ended up paying more than was needed.

In some extreme cases, passengers could have paid almost double the cheapest fare available if they had followed the advice given. For example, NRES quoted a fare of £91 for a trip from Southampton to Bristol and then on to Birmingham, completed in one day. A through single should cost £48, but instead separate fares were quoted for each leg of the journey.

"In the past, we've expressed serious doubts about the reliability of information given by booking clerks at station ticket offices and the NRES helpline," says the report. "Our latest research shows that, to paraphrase British Rail's slogan of the 1980s, they're still 'getting there'."

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