Changes to off peak return fares ….

Posted on August 17th, 2014, by Vice Chairman

There are important changes to off peak return fares on the Mid Cheshire Line from Sunday 7th September 2014 ….

What are the changes?
1. Withdrawal of Cheap Evening Returns and Evening Rail Rangers
2. Restrictions on the validity of Off Peak Day Return tickets from some stations and travelcards in the evening peak from Monday to Friday

Why are the changes being made?
As a condition of extending Northern’s franchise until 2016 the Department for Transport has required Northern to make savings in order to reduce the subsidy which it receives. Northern has, therefore, had to introduce restrictions on the validity of Off Peak Day Returns for journeys starting and finishing within Greater Manchester and has withdrawn Cheap Evening Returns and Evening Rangers. The changes apply from 8 September.

How is my station affected?

Group A
No change to ticket validity and fares for Off Peak Day Returns on the Mid Cheshire Line:
Lostock Gralam

Group B
Cheap Evening Returns withdrawn but no other changes:

Group C
Cheap Evening Returns and Evening Rail Rangers withdrawn.
Off Peak Day Returns, GM Rail Rangers and System One DaySavers not valid for rail journeys between any two of these stations, or any other stations in Greater Manchester, which start between 16:01 and 18:29 from Monday to Friday, except on Bank Holidays:
Navigation Road
Manchester Piccadilly

(Railcard discounts still apply, but Off Peak Day Returns bought with a railcard are subject to the same limitations on validity as full price Off Peak Day Returns).

All stations on the Line – which off peak return tickets are not affected?
Off Peak Day Returns from or to any stations in Groups A and B are not affected by the changes – so, for example, Off Peak Day Returns, from Mouldsworth or Plumley to Stockport are not affected and Off Peak Day Returns from Stockport to Mouldsworth or Plumley are also not affected.

Mid Cheshire Line DUOs and the Greater Manchester Wayfarer ticket are not affected.

Greater Manchester Over 60s passes and National Concessionary Travel Passes (‘bus passes’) issued by Transport for Greater Manchester are not affected and will remain valid for travel on local trains in the TfGM area in the evening peak period.

Please leave a comment

  1. HB Says:

    Whilst not exactly celebrating fare increases, there are a number of positives to this (and fares generally are pretty reasonable too). Firstly, the more revenue and less subsidy required on the line, the better the business case for both the operator and the DfT to maintain and increase services and frequency, upgrade rolling stock, as well as invest to reopen the Middlewich spur.

    Also, reducing the cost to us all as tax payer is always the right starting point.

  2. Vince Chadwick Says:

    Well, at least on the Crewe – Manchester line we have the option of ‘Virgin only’ tickets, which are cheaper than Northern’s.

  3. Mike Battman Says:

    Vince, not much use if you’re travelling to Goostrey!!

  4. Jen Says:

    Mike – Goostrey isn’t included in the new restrictions. If you’re travelling between Alderley Edge (which is affected) and Manchester in the evening peak you can buy your ticket to/from Chelford instead. You’d pay 90p more than you currently pay but it would be cheaper than buying an Anytime Return to/from Alderley Edge.

  5. Nick Says:

    One issue I don’t think has been addressed in the whole debate over off-peak restrictions is the extra pressure placed on rush hour services by leisure travellers who generally travel home between 4:30 and 6. Potentially, the restrictions could deter leisure travellers from using rush hour services, therefore reducing the overcrowding and standing passengers on some services. It may also encourage them to either spend more time in the shops or visit bars and cafes – thus increasing spending in the local economy so it may not be all bad news.

  6. Mike Battman Says:

    Jen, but if you have a ‘Virgin Only’ ticket can you actually get a train that stops at Goostrey?

  7. Mike Battman Says:

    Nick, the opposite of that argument is that currently leisure travellers wait until after 0930 to catch the train. Now they can go earlier for the same cost, so there could be more passengers in the morning rush.

  8. Jen Says:

    Mike- I’m not sure what you mean given Chelford and stations south of Chelford aren’t affected by the new restrictions and that Virgin only tickets are only available for travel between Manchester and one of Stockport, Wilmslow, Crewe, Macclesfield and Stoke. If you have a ticket to Goostrey that has an operator restriction e.g. a Goostrey to London Advance it’ll be marked ‘VWC + Connections’ meaning you can use the Northern service to Crewe but once at Crewe you’re restricted to Virgin for the rest of your journey.

    Nick- another view is people will travel earlier in both directions. For example, instead of going to Manchester at 12:00 and returning at 16:30 they will instead go at 11:00 and return at 15:30. That could then mean the trains which are already well loaded with school and college pupils returning home will become overcrowded.

  9. Mike Battman Says:

    Jen, so I could use a ‘Virgin only’ ticket on a Northern Train – apologies.

  10. Jen Says:

    Mike – You can’t buy a Virgin only ticket that says Goostrey on it. The closest you can get is a VWC+Connections tickets from Goostrey which is valid on Northern to make a connection to/from a Virgin service. The same is true of any station on the Manchester-Crewe line which Virgin do not serve.

  11. M M Says:

    Not all Northern conductors seem to know their own fares/regs.
    A day return from Cuddington to Chester leaving by the 9.24 am with a railcard costs £5 and is NOT a peak service fare.
    When asked for over six pounds for this journey on 24th September it was a bit of a cheek as this train was considerably late!
    To the extent that the ticket is printed with a 9.36 stamp!!

  12. Vince Chadwick Says:

    Isn’t it the timetabled departure of the train, not the actual departure time, that determines whether an off peak fare applies? I often travel from Wilmslow into Manchester aiming for a train after 09:30 so ask for an off-peak ticket. But there’s an 09:27 Virgin Pendolino which often runs a few minutes late, and the ticket office guy emphasises that my ticket will not be valid on that service, even if it leaves well after 09:30.

  13. M M Says:

    The fare for the 9.24 is £5 – see National Rail Enquiries website (the Northern Rail website is rubbish).
    You are lucky to have a booking office.
    We have no booking office.
    No staff.
    No toilets.
    No ticket machine.
    No live information on arrivals/departures.

    We do have late, ancient, well-past their sell-by-date, dirty trains not enhanced by ingrained filth and rusty fittings which cannot be removed by the most zealous cleaners.
    I pity the staff who have to work on these obsolete wrecks.
    The Mid-Cheshire line has noisy, smelly, diesel particulate polluting trains.
    Northern Rail makes £30 million profit but won’t update our trains.

  14. Mike Battman Says:

    Not much chance you getting your ticket checked on a Virgin Train after it’s left Euston

  15. Jen Says:

    For local fares on the Mid-Cheshire line which aren’t between two Greater Manchester stations the morning peak ends at 08:59 not 09:29.

    MM, assuming it is a Senior Railcard you have the fare should have been £5 although your train was only 4 minutes late so I’m not sure about it being ‘considerably late.’ I personally would flag that to Northern’s customer relation team.

    Vince Chadwick, yes that’s correct. What would be interesting is if a delayed peak train ran in the usual path of an off-peak train at a station without CIS, the passengers wouldn’t know that it was technically a peak train! Incidentally regarding CIS a user of the Crewe-Manchester line has said Northern have told them stations on that line will be getting CIS and new TVMs, I would hope that means the Mid-Cheshire line will be getting the same.

  16. M M Says:

    I think I’ve worked out what CIS is. Customer information system?
    I believe this has been asked for since Cuddington station was de-staffed around 1990.
    I did try to contact Northern Rail Customer ‘service’ .
    I did say it was rubbish though.
    The website decided to freeze.
    I will try again but I have to say I have little confidence that there will be a timely and satisfactory outcome.
    On this line, from time to time, conductors fail to collect fares which results in having to traipse to the ticket office over the bridge.
    This is ok if your destination is Chester.
    However, if onward travelling to Liverpool then a traipse back over the bridge is required.
    Customer ‘services’ on the occasions I have received a reply seem to think I make these things up offering the assertion that conductors are incentivised to collect fares.
    Clearly the incentives aren’t good enough.

  17. Andrew Macfarlane Says:


    MCRUA understands that Knutsford, Northwich, Greenbank and Cuddington stations are to get Customer Information Screens under the present Direct Award contract for Northern Rail. They are certainly long overdue.

  18. Jen Says:

    Northern are making changes to their fares from next month. Any flow which is priced by Northern where an Anytime Day Return is currently available but not an Off-Peak Day Return will be getting a new Off-Peak Day Return fare – Knutsford to Bolton is an example of one such flow where the Off-Peak Day Return will cost £11.30. However, Knutsford to Liverpool will not be getting an Off-Peak Day Return as the flow is not priced by Northern. It’s rumoured Northern will be withdrawing some Duo fares once the new Off-Peak Day Returns are introduced.

  19. Watcherzero Says:

    Greater Manchester Pte off peak fares are rising by 50p
    non pte fares priced by Northern are falling approx. 15% from introduction of short return fares
    Duo being phased out now there’s a national rail card that does the same thing.

    New franchise agreement cuts TfGM out of the loop, they no longer receive a rail grant to subsidise fares with the Government supposedly paying it straight to the Toc (or perhaps a vastly reduced sum, much easier for them to cut it now the public and local government cant see it).

    It was £50m a year, a cut of £20m occurred two years ago which saw the Dft instruct Northern to make up the difference through evening peak restrictions and other changes.

  20. Jen Says:

    DfT didn’t actually instruct old Northern to introduce the evening peak restrictions, they instructed Northern to look at different options but the PTEs rejected the option of introducing car parking charges at all PTE managed station car parks.

    While Northern are the main beneficiary of the subsided PTE fares I wouldn’t have thought all the funding goes to Northern as PTE subsided tickets are valid on all operators, not just Northern.

  21. Simon Barber Says:

    I haven’t seen an announcement that all Duos are being withdrawn, and Northern’s web site still promotes them, but if it does happen, it’s a pity. The Two Together railcard does do much the same thing, but you have to name the other person on your railcard when you buy it. So if I buy a Two Together and name my wife as the other traveller, I can’t then go by train for a beer with a mate and use it – whereas I would buy a Duo for that journey today.

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