Great Railway Fiascos No 19: Virgin charges double for a one-way ticket

AS A REGULAR rail traveller, Craig Sayer was well used to the vagaries of the pricing system. He knew that when he bought a single from Manchester to London, instead of his usual return, it was unlikely to cost half the normal pounds 20 fare.

But he was astonished to be told by Virgin that the cost of a single ticket would be pounds 48 - more than double the cost of a return. "I asked how this was possible, bearing in mind that a return journey the week before had only cost me pounds 20. I was told that single tickets cost more," Mr Sayer, a solicitor from Clapham, south London, said yesterday. In that case, he told the salesman, he would have a return ticket. The salesman refused, on the basis that Mr Sayer "had already asked for a single". "I told the ticket salesman that I had changed my mind and wanted a return. He said he couldn't sell me one.

"The obvious way to circumvent this absurd restriction would have been to ring back five minutes later and speak to a different salesman. This would be ludicrous, so eventually after much persuasion, I was sold a return ticket."

When the tickets arrived, the journey times were incorrect. This could not be sorted out on the phone and Mr Sayer was forced to travel to Euston station to have his tickets changed. Mr Sayer added that his train was late.

Virgin, far from proferring an apology, accused Mr Sayer of denying another passenger a low-fare seat by not using his return. A Virgin spokeswoman said cheap single fares had been scrapped because of low demand. "But we have decided to redress the balance and re-introduce value singles from 26 September," she added.

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