Fares, rail policy and DfT news

04.06.18

Rail industry launches survey to revolutionise ‘outdated’ fares and ticketing system

In a new partnership, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and Transport Focus will begin a three-month public consultation into rail fares find out what passengers want to see from an “up to date, easier fare ticketing system,” effectively allowing users to have a say in the future of train fares

The RDG has said that as many as 55 million different fares exist in the current ticketing system, where commuters were not offered the cheapest, most efficient or easiest option. Some commuters could, for example, experience ‘split-ticketing,’ where customers can make a journey cheaper buying several tickets as opposed to buying just one.

The consultation comes at a time where the British rail industry is dominating the headlines: today Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said Northern should be stripped of its franchise as delays and cancellations continued.

The survey will be ‘revenue neutral’— meaning if some fares are brought down due to consumer pressure then rail providers can raise prices elsewhere to prevent a loss of revenue.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: “Our research shows that rail passengers want a fares system that is simple to use, easy to understand and is flexible enough to cater to how people work and travel today.

“The rail industry has grasped the nettle and we will ensure the voice of the passenger is heard clearly as part of this consultation.”

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, added: “Reforming the rules about how tickets are sold and bought has the potential to transform the buying experience for customers, making it easier for people to be confident they are getting the right ticket.

“These reforms support what the industry is already doing to make improvements to fares alongside record investment in new train carriages, upgraded stations and extra services.”

Part of the rail consultation will involve train operators calling for a digital overhaul of fares, which could mean passengers who buy tickets on-board paying the same price as those who have booked months in advance, it has been reported.

The plans involve passengers being given a ‘national travel account,’ allowing them to manage and book journeys with any rail operator which will automatically allocate the lowest available fare to the customer, thus mitigating the issue of split-ticketing.

But Jonathan Bray, director of Urban Transport Group, said that while the RDG is right to admit that fares can be confusing and complex, any reform must be based on the “considerable potential that exists for greater integration of rail fares with other forms of public transport” in large urban areas – an example of which is London Overground's integration with the wider TfL network.

“We are therefore disappointed that the consultation largely ignores the case for greater fares simplification and integration at the city region level in the options it presents to passengers,” he continued.

“The RDG also has a blind spot when it comes to the reality that around one-third of all rail trips are now on devolved, or partly devolved, rail networks, and that there are already significant regional variations in fare levels reflecting the relative strength of different economies and the priorities of different parts of a devolving UK. We will be making these points in our formal response to the consultation and we hope that any concrete proposals that emerge from this process will be based on a more inclusive and broader perspective than this initial consultation suggests.”

The consultation closes on 10 September, with a final report due in late autumn. To give your views, visit here.

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