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Lower prices could lure 40% of non-rail users into trains, study finds

Trains are too expensive, according to those who prefer to travel by other means.

According to a report, ‘Tomorrow’s passengers: understanding how to make rail travel more attractive to infrequent and non-users’, published by Transport Focus, almost 40% of people who never or rarely travel by train argue that the cost is the main reason, closely followed by inconvenience.

Cost was consistently considered the main barrier across a variation of demographics – income, location and disability – and older people and those not working were more likely to consider that the fares are too complicated.

Those with access to a car find it more convenient overall, but also named station parking as a barrier, due to either a lack of space or the cost of parking.

Although the report conceded that the extent to which there are perceived barriers changes depending on whether a person is generally positive or negative about rail, the cost still came out as the biggest barrier – regardless of the person’s perception of the industry.

For example, three-quarters of those who were generally negative about rail said that it is too expensive, but a huge 45% of those generally positive about it agreed that the cost is too high.

The watchdog’s researchers sought to learn what could be done to increase travel amongst these groups, with 39% of non-users saying that lower prices would convince them to travel by train.

Improved comfort, reliability and connectivity were also highlighted as areas that could tempt people onto trains.

However, 21% said that nothing could be done to encourage them to travel by rail more.

The report highlights value for money, seat availability, more trains arriving on time with less unplanned disruptions, and fewer cancellations as priorities improvements for passengers overall.

It also argues that those who use trains infrequently are less likely to have seen or heard anything about the railways recently, and that anything they have heard is more likely to be negative.

“These views are often fed by media reports and by their friends and family recounting their own personal ‘journey from hell,’” the report explained.

“There is an important job to be done in communicating positive stories to this audience. One of the potential ways of addressing is to offer free ‘taster’ journeys so that they can experience things first hand.”

Top image: Torsten Dettlaff

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