InterCity, which receives no government subsidy, virtually broke even on a pounds 900m turnover last year but yesterday its managing director, Chris Green, accepted that it had plunged into the red during the first half of this financial year: 'We are heading for a loss if we don't remedy things,' he said. 'Because of the need to increase revenue, we are now doing the things that we always wanted to do in the past.'
All investment other than essential safety work is being scrapped and managers are being told to cut their budgets by 3 per cent. Fares are likely to go up in the New Year by more than the rate of inflation.
InterCity is calling the improvements 'the biggest package ever put together'. Hostesses will welcome passengers at stations and it will be possible to buy tickets over the telephone with credit cards using a freephone number. From 28 September, passengers will be able to buy hot meals from the buffet car and trolley services will be gradually expanded to cover all passengers.
Last year's tie-up with Boots - whereby customers who spent more than pounds 5 at the chemist were given a voucher entitling them to a free additional rail ticket when they bought one - is being repeated.
Two further ideas are being copied from airlines. Low fare APEX tickets, first introduced on the London to Glasgow route in 1987, have been extended to cover all InterCity journeys over 150 miles. They must be booked a week in advance and the return journey must be within a month of travel. Examples of new fares include Aberdeen to London pounds 54 (normal saver return is pounds 76), Cardiff to London pounds 22 ( pounds 38), and Liverpool to London pounds 26 ( pounds 39).