Hey Mr Branson, why is buying a train ticket out of Norwich such an ordeal?

Richard Branson visits the Virgin Money Lounge in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

Richard Branson visits the Virgin Money Lounge in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

Imagine you are in a restaurant and charged £10 for your main meal of chicken, mashed potato and peas.

However, when you delve further it turns out that had you ordered all three items separately the final amount would have come to just £8.

And when you question why, you are told it's because all three of those items are provided by different companies and therefore work out more expensive when bunched together.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you'd accept that excuse would you? In fact you'd probably tell them to take the tenner, give you two pounds back and then sling their hook.

So why then is this exactly what happens when you want to travel anywhere of distance by train in the United Kingdom? As I found out all too recently.

I've been looking at the best way to travel to Birmingham Airport for a holiday later this year and could not believe how non-user friendly the whole experience was.

My first port of call was NationalRail.co.uk where I was pleasantly surprised to be quoted just £33 for a return ticket, as long as I stuck with two particular trains there and back.

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But when I clicked to buy the ticket it diverted me to train operator Virgin and at this point my smile very quickly turned to a frown.

Instead of £33, Virgin was quoting £170, while the journey route had suddenly changed to an 11-hour round trip combining both rail and bus. That was almost as expensive and time consuming as going on the holiday!

Eagle-eyed, I noticed that if I scrolled down there was the offer of a £146 journey, but it was hardly obvious and could be missed my many.

Querying it with Virgin (and after a social media post) the advice was to separate each journeys, a task which took me about 30 minutes to sort and did at least cut the final price to £80.

But why on earth did I have to go through this whole rigmarole in the first place? Why is a process allowed that leaves you wondering whether they are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of paying customers?