The new Two Together railcard means flexible passengers can benefit from the lowest fares in western Europe

But peak-time capacity on the rail network will continue to be rationed by price

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The Independent Online

Ask a typical commuter at Leeds, Liverpool or London Bridge which country has the most expensive trains in Europe, and the answer will probably be “Britain”. While this was true only briefly, when sterling soared seven years ago, the label has stuck. And for the long-suffering rush-hour passenger, the new Two Together railcard will change nothing. Peak-time capacity on our overstretched rail network will continue to be rationed by price.

The card's conditions of use (see look exasperating, which is precisely the point. Train operators are focusing on couples - whether romantically or merely professionally attached - who currently share a car. Rail firms believe the Two Together card can incentivise people to switch to the train without “cannibalising” earnings; allowing existing passengers to travel more cheaply is not part of the plan.

While the rail industry habitually vows to ease the complexity of fare rules, the new card adds extra complication. But price-sensitive passengers keen to find the best deal will welcome yet another device to reduce the cost of travel.

Some budget travellers already take advantage of “four-for-the-price-of-two” deals on airport train services, for example by forming ad-hoc quartets shortly before the departure of the Gatwick Express. Such informal arrangements will not be possible with the Two Together discount, which applies only if both named (and photographed) holders travel together. Nevertheless, canny travellers will exploit the railcard in conjunction with cut-price Advance tickets. While UK commuter tickets remain stubbornly expensive, flexible passengers can benefit from the lowest fares in western Europe.