Although it is well known that all rail companies are increasing fares in the new year Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) are effectively increasing fares even further for those that book online via their website.
From 2 Jan 2016 the online discount which was between 2 and 10% will be abolished. The means that in addition to the increase in the base fare, the additional discount for booking online direct with Virgin Trains East Coast (which means they don't need to pay commission to another site) will no longer apply. The online discount was introduced by GNER and was maintained by subsequent fanchisees including National Express and East Coast.
This means two things:
- For those that book on the Virgin Trains East Coast website they will experience a further price increase in addition to what has already been announced. Depending on route this will be between 2 and 10%.
- As long as the website doesn't charge booking fees the same fares are available on other sites. If booking on a FirstGroup website (that gives Nectar points regardless of operator) will be more attractive as there's no financial incentive to book direct.
Before Virgin Trains East Coast took over the East Coast website was indisputably the best place to buy all your GB rail tickets. The East Coast Rewards scheme was the most generous in the UK and gave points for all rail tickets. Once East Coast Rewards was abolished there was no reason to buy tickets for other operators on the site but there was still the online discount for VTEC's own tickets which meant a small saving over other retailers.
A great deal was made about the introduction of Nectar even though it was a poor alternative to East Coast Rewards. However VTEC only offer Nectar points on their own services whereas FirstGroup (GWR, Transpennine Express, Hull Trains) offer points on all rail travel, so without a discount on bookings there's absolutely no need for passengers who want Nectar points to book directly.