Newspaper headlines: Rail fare crackdown and broadband 'misery'

A crackdown on rail firms hiding cheap fares and a warning of "dire" broadband speeds make front page headlines.

The Times analysed 50 cross-country routes at the National Rail website and found that customers could get a cheaper deal on 33 of the journeys by buying singles to and from destinations along the route.

Passengers can travel on the same trains and arrive at the same time, it notes.

The Times continues: "The research suggests that large numbers of customers may still not be getting the cheapest fares from self-service machines.

"Since last year rail operators have been obliged to label the machines so passengers know that they sell only a limited range of tickets and that cheaper fares might be available at manned offices."

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Rail minister Paul Maynard, says the Times, said train operators must come up with an urgent action plan to make the system more transparent.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, tells the Times: "Regulations require train companies to offer 'through ticket' prices between every station and it is these fares that systems are designed to offer customers.

"We know that in some cases it can occasionally be cheaper to buy more than one ticket when making a through journey and we are looking at ways to make buying tickets cheaper."

Eye-catching headlines

  • Radio listeners prefer comfortable brogues: There was a time when the airwaves were strictly reserved for those who spoke the Queen's English, however the domination of received pronunciation has been comprehensively overturned according to a new Radio Times poll which found that the nation's favourite radio voices have Scottish, Welsh and Jamaican accents Times
  • Tip for a French holiday: avoid chipmunks with Lyme disease: Families holidaying in France this summer will no doubt face many a pitfall - rain, queues for the ferry, hostile locals - but few heading for the French countryside will be prepared for a blight of chipmunks which can spread Lyme disease to humans Telegraph
  • Original skin: Adam and Eve restored to nudity by museum: Adam and Eve are once again as naked as the day they were created, centuries after some prudish hand wrapped his loins in a grass skirt and draped a veil around her, in an illustrated book to go on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge Guardian

Sub-standard connections

Another consumer-based story makes the front page lead for the Telegraph.

The paper says the telecoms regulator Ofcom has decided against breaking up BT by selling off its broadband division Openreach.

"The decision, which comes after a review that ran for more than a year, will infuriate campaigners who have accused BT of underinvestment in its network, leaving millions of people with sub-standard connections," says the Telegraph.

"It comes after 121 MPs from all parties called for BT to be broken up and warned that a 'staggering' 5.7 million people do not receive the minimum expected download speeds as stipulated by the regulator.

"The poor service can leave customers waiting up to two hours to download an hour-long video, and have forced some businesses to close in the worst-affected parts of the country."

The paper launched a Better Broadband campaign to improve connectivity "in the countryside, towns and cities" earlier this year.

BT chairman Sir Mike Rake, says the Telegraph, said it would be the wrong time to break up BT and "distract us from the remaining investment to get superfast and ultrafast broadband right across the country in the next two to three years".

Negative interest rates

The papers report that NatWest has warned it could become the first UK bank to charge negative interest rates on deposits, for business customers.

"The warning by NatWest was made in a letter changing the terms and conditions for the bank's 850,000 business customers, who range from self-employed traders, charities and clubs to big corporations," explains the Guardian.

"It could mean that an account holder with £1,000 in a NatWest account could see that shrink to £999 or less the following year as the bank charges a negative rate of interest."

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The bank said it had no plans to make changes to the terms and conditions of personal account holders to allow it to charge negative rates, the Guardian continues.

"The announcement opens the way for a High Street bank to introduce negative interest rates - with savers effectively penalised for depositing money - for the first time in Britain," says the Times.

The Telegraph says NatWest blamed the move on the Bank of England's ultra-low interest rates which it said were putting huge pressures on its finances.

"A move to negative interest rates would turn a key part of banking on its head, with banks effectively paid to store people's money, while savers are penalised for keeping money in their accounts," states the Telegraph.

"However, this could become a reality if the Bank of England cuts its base rate to 0.25% in August after seven years of it being held at 0.5%."

Thrilling spectacle

The West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has left the critics spellbound.

"'Keep the secrets' is the injunction on badges handed out as we leave the theatre," says the Guardian's Michael Billington. "It's a motto that makes life hard for us hacks, but I am happy to divulge that John Tiffany, as director of this pair of two-and-a-half-hour plays, has masterminded a thrilling spectacle."

"It is also one that will make more sense to hardened Potterheads than to anyone who happens not be a member of the global cult.

"What we have is a brand new work by Jack Thorne based on an original story by himself, Tiffany and JK Rowling: a venture that I approached in a state of benign semi-innocence.

"I've read one of the seven Potter books and seen a couple of the eight films, and enjoyed them without becoming an addict. At times, I felt as if I had wandered into Henry VI Part Two without seeing the preceding plays."

In the Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish gives it a resounding thumbs-up.

"British theatre hasn't known anything like it for decades and I haven't seen anything directly comparable in all my reviewing days," he says.

"Tremors of excitement at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - the first Potter play, and the eighth story in the publishing phenomenon that made JK Rowling's name and fortune - are being felt across thee world."

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Ann Treneman in the Times gives it, appropriately, four stars and three-quarters.

She writes: "JK Rowling has never been known for brevity - some of her books can double as doorstops - and her first play is no exception. This, the eighth Harry Potter story, is told in two parts, each lasting more than two-and-a-half hours.

"In between there is a three-hour break. It's not so much a play as a weekend mini-break, a theatrical experience that lasts longer than some relationships.

"I am a mere Muggle, of course, which is Potter-speak for those of us without magical powers, but that doesn't mean I can't spot wizardry when I see it."

The i describes it as a "magnificently told story" and an "astonishingly spectacle". The Sun says it is a "bewitching" show.

"Galloping goblins, it's long," exclaims the Mail's Quentin Letts.