News: Rail pass price scandal; Perth is back on the map

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Rail pass price scandal

Rail pass price scandal

Passes that allow unlimited travel have traditionally been the best way to guarantee cut-price rail transit in Europe. But research by The Independent has found that for many British travellers, they may end up costing far more than stitching a journey together from a number of individual components.

No-frills flights have opened up Italy to UK visitors and allow for "open-jaw" itineraries, such as flying from Stansted to Venice on easyJet and back from Catania on Air Malta. A typical itinerary between the two cities might take in Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Naples.

The basic Trenitalia Pass starts at £127 for four days' travel over a two-month period. You could squeeze this trip into just four days of rail travel - or buy additional travel days at extra cost. But a normal ticket for these destinations bought at the station in Venice (or through www.trenitalia.com) would cost just €110 (£77) - a saving of £50. Furthermore, so long as you do not backtrack, journeys can be made at any time within two months.

The cost of rail travel in France is more expensive than Italy and therefore a multiple journey pass such as the Domino ticket may well prove a more economical alternative. The basic pass entitles the holder to three days of rail travel in a month and costs £138. A typical journey from Paris to Marseilles, onward to Bordeaux and back to the French capital, has a walk-up fare of €257 (£184). But travellers with internet access can save a fortune by using the website www.voyages-sncf.com. Buying three separate Prem's tickets, booked two weeks ahead, reduces the cost to €95 (£68) - less than half the price of the rail pass. Travellers who are unable to book so far in advance can take a chance on French Railways' "derniere minute" offers - half-price tickets for travel the following day on a range of major routes.

For people who enjoy train rides for their own sake, and who intend to travel extensively, rail passes remain excellent value. But in Germany, the locally available variety are ideal for families or small groups of travellers. The Happy Weekend ticket allows five adults to travel anywhere in Germany, except on express trains, for a total of €28 (£20) on either a Saturday or Sunday. During the week, Länder tickets are available on a similar basis for local and regional trains in individual German states; five people can travel all day for €22 (£16) in Bavaria, for example.

Even solo travellers can benefit; a one-person Länder ticket for Bavaria costs €15 (£11), allowing travel throughout Germany's largest state. The cheapest three-day rail pass for Germany costs £138.

Laura Swan

World's most isolated city is back on the map

The world's most isolated city will be rejoined to the UK this winter. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is closer to Jakarta in Indonesia than Sydney. Its sense of isolation consequently increased when British Airways and Qantas abandoned direct services from London, instead focusing flights on Sydney and Melbourne.

Perth is currently accessible only after a change of plane, but from November, direct flights from London will once again arrive at the city's airport: Qantas has bought slots at Heathrow that will allow it to launch three flights a week to Perth.

Western Australia is the nation's largest state. The reinstated route will increase access to the wineries south of Perth, a wide range of water sports opportunities along the coast, and some of Australia's wildest terrain. It also enables travellers to connect to an expanding range of no-frills flights on Qantas's low-cost offshoot, JetStar, and Virgin's equivalent, Virgin Blue.

Even though Perth is within non-stop range of the UK, Qantas has no plans to offer such a service. The new flight will be routed via Singapore, and is scheduled to take just under 20 hours. But anyone still prepared to change planes can get there quicker: Singapore Airlines offers an 18-and-a half-hour journey, thanks to a short connection at its Changi hub. British Airways will "code-share" on the new Qantas flight, which means applying a BA flight number to it. Neither airline has plans to resurrect services to the other Australian mainland capitals that they used to serve, so travellers to Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin must continue to change planes en route.

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