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Ticket machines to get new warning label

The new deal between train operators for ticket machines to make passengers aware of cheaper fares amounts to little more than a new sticker for the machines, RTM has learned.

Promoted as a new code of practice that will see self-service ticket machines make passengers aware when the ticket they want to purchase is available cheaper elsewhere, the arrangement will actually just see a new warning label affixed to the ticket machines telling passengers that cheaper fares may be available at ticket offices.

Rail minister Claire Perry MP pushed for the agreement following research showing how self-service ticket machines — which are used to buy almost a quarter of all tickets – offer wildly different fares, making some journeys £100 more expensive than they need to be.

A Telegraph investigation found, for example, that at machines run by Northern Rail in Leeds, passengers buying a first-class Anytime Return to Birmingham were charged £27, but at the same station an East Coast machine offered the same journey using a first-class Off-peak Return for £145.70.

The rail minister called a summit of representatives across the rail industry, held last month, which saw an agreement in principle to a new code of practice, which has yet to be drafted.

The code, which is to take effect from March, will be overseen by the Office of Rail Regulation and will see ticket machines clearly labelled to inform passengers that cheaper tickets for some journeys may be available.

Perry said: "I am absolutely determined that passengers should get the best possible deal for every journey. There is no excuse for poor quality information, restricted ticket choice or confusing screen directions at ticket machines.

"I welcome the fact that the industry has responded to the challenge with some positive actions which will be rolled out by next March. However one summit is not the end of our discussions. I will be closely monitoring progress and I will not hesitate to hold the industry to account if improvements are not made."

However while the deal is being billed as a victory for passengers, a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group admitted to RTM it amounted to little more than a new label for the machines

The spokesperson said: “As it currently stands, between now and March operators will be ensuring that self-service ticket machines are labelled to let passengers know that they could potentially buy cheaper tickets at the ticket office. As far as I am aware there is no commitment yet to make changes across all machines to have that detail provided for individual tickets.”

The announcement came on the eve of the rise in rail fares, which take effect today. The average rise, at 2.2%, is the lowest for five years. Regulated fares, which this year were pegged to July's measure of Retail Price inflation (RPI) rather than capped at RPI plus 1%, rose by 2.5%.

(Image: c. Yui Mok/PA Wire)

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Rodger Bradley   02/01/2015 at 18:36

"Promoted as a new code of practice ......." Just a label on a ticket machine - how is that a new code of practice? And, how will the code be enforced - will the TOC's be "probed by the Transport Select Committee" if they don't display the label, or passengers are not directed at the most advantageous fare?? Will the same label be applied to the ticket machines in Lancaster, Leeds, and Manchester as they will be in London. I'm sure the BBC will be quick to do a vox pop n that one after March.

Strawbrick   03/01/2015 at 18:14

Following the latest round of staff reductions, the ticket office at Hemel Hempstead station is frequently closed in the afternoon and from early in the evening; the ticket barriers are also generally unmanned when the ticket office is closed. What use is a notice on the ticket machine telling me that a cheaper ticket may be available when I cannot buy said cheaper ticket? In such circumstances should not the machine issue a receipt which I can take the ticket office the next time to claim a refund? Better than that, could not the machine software be upgraded so that it could actually sell me the cheaper ticket?

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