Fares on Friday morning peak express services on the West Coast main line will fall by up to two-thirds from today.
Avanti West Coast, which runs services from London Euston to the West Midlands, northwest England and Scotland, has followed the conventional practice of charging very high fares for trains before 9.30am.
But the train operator has now stopped charging £129 for a one-way trip from Birmingham New Street and London – on Fridays at least.
The fare falls from £129 to the off-peak rate of £61 – a reduction of 53 per cent.
Between London and Manchester Piccadilly, the £180 Anytime fare before 9.30am drops to the same as Saturday or Sunday: £64.40, representing a fall of 64 per cent.
Advance fares for peak-hour journeys have previously been either expensive or unavailable. Now, cheap tickets are readily available – typically £38 for a morning peak journey from Birmingham to London.
While all non-essential journeys are banned in England until 3 December, the Avanti policy will continue into 2021 and possibly beyond.
Sarah Copley, executive director, commercial at Avanti West Coast said: “Removing the Friday morning restrictions gives customers more freedom to choose when they travel and when lockdown measures ease, make the most of their extended weekends and days out.
“Just as importantly it allows us to spread demand and maintain social distancing onboard our services. This will help our customers who decide to travel, to travel with confidence.”
The train operator, which took over from Virgin Trains a year ago, stresses that the move is temporary.
But The Independent understands it will extend at least until the end of January 2021. Given long-term trends in passenger behaviour, Friday may be permanently deemed an off-peak day.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the rail industry was reporting significantly lower passenger numbers on peak-hour trains on Fridays.
The move comes days after the number of trains linking London with Birmingham and Manchester was cut by one-third as passenger number slumped.