Once again I present my annual review of Rovers, and begin by saying that little has changed on the National Rail site, where some information remains incomplete or out-of-date. No single site spells out the full picture that is shown here.
I can be confident that the prices quoted here are accurate, not least because a majority of Rovers are managed by Great Western Railway (GWR) and Northern, both of whom are really helpful in giving me information well in advance.
However, I am grateful to all those who have assisted, the others being the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), Arriva Trains Wales, East Midlands Trains, London Midland, ScotRail, Southeastern, and Devon’s public transport department.
Once again, even more Rovers can be discounted with a Forces Railcard - yet it still isn’t national. I’m sure this is merely because those operators that don’t accept it have never even thought about it. That’s the chaotic way our railway system is now run.
I have to say, however, that my greatest criticism must be reserved for dreadful websites. Over recent years most operator websites have ceased being informative - they are now merely sites that want to sell you tickets and reluctantly add some other information in the background… if you can find it!
ScotRail, for example, offers little information about its Rovers other than prices. Some are listed as only valid ‘off-peak’, without even saying what that is.
Southeastern sells its Kent Rover online but also gives no details of its time restrictions. If you try to buy it, it also offers what appear to be its 7-day and 14-day Off-Peak Rovers. Only when you click those do you realise they’re actually selling you All-Line Rovers! Since when is the All-Line Rover an ‘Off-Peak Rover’? Southeastern even says that travel is by ‘any permitted route’ - absolute rubbish, of course, with a Rover!
Arriva Trains Wales omits some Rovers from its list, plus a lot of the conditions applicable to the tickets.
Then there’s c2c, which still (despite my telling them several times) refers to its London Terminus as ‘Fenchurch street’ (sic). It’s all an appalling lack of efficiency. British Rail would never have tolerated such sloppiness.
As usual, this review covers all Rovers and Day Rangers outside the Passenger Transport Executives and London, starting with the All-Line Rover then covering Britain north to south. The criterion for an entry is that the ticket includes unlimited travel for at least one day over a network that is part of the National Rail system. If tickets are also valid on private railways, this is stated.
Please read carefully the ‘Definitions’, where I give copious information on time restrictions, how to calculate fares for accompanying children (which vary according to the railcard), minimum fares, and time availability with the Network Railcard and Gold Card.
‘Small print’ definitions are complicated, but worth pondering. For example, with a 7-day Rover advertised as ‘from 0930’ (which means from 0930 on Mon-Fri), one issued Wednesday until Tuesday will commence 0930 Wednesday, expire 0429 on the second Wednesday (day 8), and not be valid from 0430 until 0929 inclusive on Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday.
In particular, the expiry date shown on the ticket will be the Tuesday, even though it remains valid for another 4hrs 29 mins into Wednesday - although all travel must have ceased by then.
The exceptions are Arriva Trains Wales’ Rovers, which (for some reason) expire at midnight. I’m not even sure that is actually allowed under national rules, but that’s another story!
As ordinary season tickets are valid by all permitted routes, many effectively offer a network. Thus, as I have said in previous years, they can be excellent value for a holiday. Also, they are not time-restricted.
So, a Weekly Season from Uttoxeter to London, for example, is £345.80 Standard or £572.60 First Class, and you get validity as follows:
Derby-St Pancras direct; Derby-Nottingham-St Pancras direct; Derby-Melton Mowbray-Corby-St Pancras; Derby-Tamworth-Euston via Rugby, Bedworth or Northampton; Stoke-on-Trent-Reading-Paddington via Wolverhampton, Cannock, Sutton Coldfield, Wilnecote, Coleshill Parkway, Henley-in-Arden, Solihull or Coventry; Stoke-on-Trent-Banbury-Marylebone; Stoke-on-Trent-Euston direct or via Stafford or Wolverhampton, Cannock, Sutton Coldfield, Wilnecote, Coleshill Parkway, Bedworth or Northampton.
The First Class version offers free food, including up to five free breakfasts and/or evening meals on Virgin West Coast or East Midlands Trains (together with complimentary drinks as appropriate).
Bearing in mind that one Anytime First Return from Uttoxeter to London is £396 via Stoke-on-Trent or £234 via Derby, and that the cheapest Off-Peak Return is £69.50 in Standard, the above is excellent value.
Do remember 7-day seasons can commence any day, but you do need a photocard.