Fares, rail policy and DfT news

14.12.16

Plan to tackle complex ticketing system unveiled, but ‘wider reforms still needed’

Buying train tickets will be made easier under a set of reforms promised today by the DfT, in partnership with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

The action plan, developed in partnership with Transport Focus and consumer group Which?, commits TOCs to informing passengers when stocks of best value advance tickets are running low from April next year.

From May, they will then be required to provide language passengers can understand on ticket vending machines and websites, abolishing terms such as ‘any permitted’ and ‘London terminals’ after an ORR report found that passengers don’t know what they mean. Passengers will also be able to find out the cheapest option available.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, said: “Train companies want customers to get the best possible deal every time they travel by train. By next summer train companies will start to test changes to the way fares are structured on some sample routes to give customers simpler, better information.

“Getting the right ticket for your journey shouldn’t be complicated, and improvements by train companies – including to ticket machines – will help customers find clearer fares they can trust.”

From August 2017, the National Rail website will provide customers with a plain English explanation of the ticket they have chosen.

In April next year, TransPennine Express, Northern, Virgin East Coast and Virgin West Coast will begin offering the option to purchase cheaper advance tickets on the day of travel, which is currently only possible on CrossCountry. East Midlands will offer this from September.

The DfT and TOCs will also begin a series of pilots of measures to further address the simplicity of information and fare values.

Paul Maynard, the rail minister, said: “We want a more modern and passenger-focused fares and ticketing system which takes advantage of all the benefits of new technology. Rail passengers must be able to trust that they are getting the best possible deal every time they travel.”

From June, the RDG will implement a process for consulting third-party ticket retailers on decisions that affect them, and will allow retailers access to all permanent fares. The rail industry will also provide more information to third-party developers, so that they can inform passengers how busy trains are and how punctual individual routes are.

In March, the ORR will carry out an audit of TOC websites for compliance with industry best practice. The RDG will then monitor train companies’ performance on an ongoing basis.

However, Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said the plan would make the system “a bit simpler and more usable”, but failed to answer calls for fundamental reforms such as part-time season tickets and an end to split ticketing.

“Without these larger reforms, we will still be left with an insanely complex and unfair fares system,” she warned.

Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, said the plan indicated “significant steps” towards a simpler ticketing system, but agreed that “more fundamental reform” was needed before passengers could trust the system.

“Passengers will particularly welcome the easier-to-use options for buying tickets from ticket vending machines. However, long term more fundamental reform is still needed if trust is ever going to be really established in the fares and ticketing system.”

A working group will review progress against the actions on a monthly basis, with an interim report on delivery against this plan in the ORR’s Annual Consumer Report in July 2017. A final report will be published in December next year.

(Image c. Lauren Hurley from PA Wire)

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Comments

Martin Walton   14/12/2016 at 16:11

If all this comes to pass it is certainly long overdue. Promised reform of the fares system has been talked about for so long and really never delivered. Afraid I for one am not optimistic of a real and satisfactory solution

Huguenot   14/12/2016 at 17:27

Advance tickets sold 'on the day' should not specify seat numbers once the train has left its originating station, otherwise unreserved passengers could find themselves sitting in a seat that has been reserved after they have boarded (this is a problem with CrossCountry). Also, too much fares simplification will stifle competition. The reason why there are so many different fares between station pairs that are served by more than one operator is because they are competing, and competition improves value for the passenger.

Noam Bleicher   15/12/2016 at 12:06

The only way you can abolish split ticketing is to return to a mileage-based fares system, with some adjustment for quality of service.

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