The Null Device
The BBC News Magazine has posted a very informative article on ways of legitimately gaming Britain's byzantine train fare system to get the best fare. Most of these ways involve finding the right combinations of tickets covering various parts of the journey which, when put together, are cheaper than a complete ticket would be:
These are not "fiddles" but perfectly legitimate savings, because it is the customer's right to ask for any combination of tickets. However, it is also the clerk's duty not to advertise them, should he or she know they exist.
The only rule connected with the use of such a combination (other than the fact the tickets must be valid, of course) is that the train must stop at the place where the tickets join, although you do not have to alight.A few examples:
You have to leave London for Newcastle on the 0800 train and the open return costs £224. The train calls at Peterborough - and savers to the north from Peterborough are available any train, any day. So book an open return to Peterborough (£68) then a saver from Peterborough to Newcastle (£76.90) - that's £144.90, saving £79.10. Just make sure the train on which you return calls at Peterborough (most do).And another one, exploiting the fact that return tickets to London from Wales can be cheaper than single tickets from Chester (near the Welsh border) to London:
So buy a saver return FROM London TO Shotton and throw away the outward half. You are then "returning", resuming your return journey at Chester. That is all legal. The saver return is £59.70, £29.30 less than the full single.The reasons for this labyrinth of anomalies is a legacy of John Major's privatisation of British Rail, which left the pricing of different journeys along the network in the hands of different companies, thus ensuring that the exact start and endpoints of individual tickets have an arcane, almost alchemical significance.
I wonder how hard it would be to create a search engine for automatically finding optimal combinations of tickets.
Halliburton, the US military/engineering contracting firm which made billions from contracts to "rebuild Iraq", which were supplied without bidding (a state of affairs which apparently had nothing to do with them having been headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney), and which has since become a byword for corporate villainy at its most sinister, is now moving its headquarters from Texas to Dubai, apparently to pay less tax on the US taxpayers' money that's funnelled into its gaping maw.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-N.H., called the company's move "corporate greed at its worst." He added, "This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years. At the same time they'll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I'm sure they won't stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash."Perhaps, after the next election or two, when they indict Cheney for bathing in human blood or whatever, he can flee to Dubai and live there in splendid exile as well?
Environmental campaigners are livid after it emerged that a British airline has been flying empty planes between London and Cardiff, purely to hold onto valuable slots for flying in and out of Heathrow. British Mediterranean Airways originally used the slots for flights to and from Uzbekistan, which were suspended after unrest there. Since October, it has, instead, been flying empty planes between the two airports six days a week, with each flight pumping more than five tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.