All aboard for 'flash dump' of 50p rail fares

Thousands of train tickets will go on sale today for 50p each way, in the latest and biggest "flash sale" in the travel industry. The operator of Brighton-to-London trains, Southern Railway, which links London with Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, is cutting all its advance fares by 90 per cent in a one-day online sale.

Besides its flagship route, the company also connects Eastbourne, Chichester and Portsmouth with the capital. Today, tickets to all these destinations will be available through southernrailway.com for only 50p or £1; holders of a range of railcards get an even deeper discount. For comparison, the standard one-way fare on the company's longest route, from London Victoria to Southampton, is £34.40.

Alistair Buckle, Southern Railway's head of marketing, said the promotion was intended to bring new travellers on to the railway and move sales online. "Outside commuter times, we have plenty of spare capacity, and we want to get people out of cars and on to the train."

The limit on the number of tickets anyone can buy is four "shopping baskets", each covering a maximum of four trains, and up to eight passengers. Another unusual feature is that the travel period extends for 12 weeks, covering journeys any time from tomorrow until mid-August. The company has 45,000 advance seats each week to Brighton, and a further 9,000 to Eastbourne.

Airline "flash sales", cutting fares way below normal levels, are carefully capacity controlled. The discount agency Flight Centre launched a deal from Heathrow to Bangkok yesterday for £299, but with only 100 tickets on offer on a range of dates in June. The market rate for flights to the Thai capital is about £500, of which £75 goes to the Chancellor as air passenger duty.

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