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Rail industry agrees to trial most ‘radical’ fares overhaul in 30 years

Rail companies are set to make it easier for customers to find cheaper train fares in the most radical overhaul of the fares system since the 1980s.

First outlined by the DfT last year, the agreement means passengers on trains between London and Sheffield or Scotland will be among the first to benefit from the new system, which will look to end the need for ‘split ticketing’ by offering passengers a best-value, end-to-end ‘through fare’.

The changes will also allow for easier journey planning by allowing customers to ‘mix and match’ the best fare and route, and making the information provided by ticket machines more user-friendly.

“We know customers can find it hard to get the right ticket for their journey due to complex rules and regulations built up by governments over decades,” said Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience for the Rail Delivery Group.

“There are more than 16 million different train fares, many of which nobody buys. This also makes it more difficult to give passengers the right, simple options on ticket machines.

“Working with government, we’re determined to overhaul the system to cut out red-tape, jargon and complication to make it easier for customers to buy fares they can trust, including from ticket machines.”

The trials are due to start in May on selected routes, including CrossCountry, Virgin Trains’ east and west coast services to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and East Midlands Trains.

In October, the Commons Transport Select Committee criticised the “complexity and a lack of transparency” of rail ticketing in its report on the future of the British rail industry.

Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, welcomed the industry’s plans to simplify the fares system which she branded “horribly complicated”.

However, Etkind also urged rail companies to introduce “long-overdue” part-time season tickets and ensure that station staffing levels are protected, as ticket vending machines “cannot replace trained, visible members of staff”.

Rail minister Paul Maynard confirmed that the government is working closely with the rail industry on actions to improve fares and ticketing for passengers over the next year.

“The ticket-buying experience is all too often complicated and hard to navigate and I welcome this initiative,” Maynard said. “We want a more modern and passenger-focused fares and ticketing system which takes advantage of all the benefits of new technology.”

(Image c. Lauren Hurley and PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Jerry Alderson   02/02/2017 at 16:22

A colleague has been involved for the last few months in the work that went into this. The solution is not about *simplicity* but rather about *clarity*. I want to know what I am buying – it’s about buying the right ticket for me. I want to be sure that it meets my needs and I am not paying over the odds. If I know what the ticket gives me I can work out if it is value for money.

Richard   03/02/2017 at 16:12

I suspect the usual smoke and mirrors approach here, which raises expectations for the impossible? Many people assume this means essentially a Fares reduction as the cheaper advertised fares will now be available. But as we know, many fares are TOC only, online only and all have an allocation which, once taken, means that particular fare ceases to be available (the spielspeak "Yield management" comes to mind). Does that not mean that a turn up and go customer is going to find most times the "lowest" fare available is in fact the one he gets offered now? I'm not sure that "clarity" as referred to by Jerry A above is going to be much consolation!

Ian   06/02/2017 at 09:16

"managing director of customer experience" - what on earth does that mean! Typical modern, privatised railway obfuscation methinks.

Joel   06/02/2017 at 15:29

My suspicions are sky-high - some fare reductions quoted do not serve major markets, and separate wording in the original press release about removal of 'historic' fares may hide loss of popular cheap tickets which make little money for TOCs and are not capacity-controlled. How many people make the quoted journey Wick - Par in the original press release? Fares may become simpler, but will they be fairer? I'd not bet on the latter.

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