'Fundamental reform' still needed to tackle rail fare confusion


Consumer groups have told the Government to implement 'long-term fundamental reform' to rail ticketing, after new proposals from ministers were described as not going far enough.

Under the plans, customers will be able to buy cheaper 'advance' tickets on the day of travel from longer distance operators, currently only possible on cross-counrty services, as well as receiving alerts at the time of purchase if changing travel times would be cheaper.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said ‘a set of clearly defined steps will be carried out over the next year’ after a forum co-hosted by rail minister Paul Maynard and consumer group Which?

Rail minister Paul Maynard

Rail minister Paul Maynard said: ‘The ticket buying experience is all too often complicated and hard to navigate and I am committed to working with industry to make it simpler. We want a more modern and passenger-focused fares and ticketing system which takes advantage of all the benefits of new technology.’

Potential improvements cited by the DfT include:

  • an end to jargon such as ‘any permitted route’ on tickets and a new online look-up tool explaining the restrictions
  • a ‘heads-up’ when stocks of the best value advance tickets are running low
  • alerts at the time of purchase if changing travel times would be cheaper
  • ticket machines to give customers clear choices, including cheaper options where available by changing time or service
  • advance tickets where available could be purchased on the day of travel from longer distance operators

Anthony Smith, CEO of watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘Rail passengers find the fares and ticketing system complex and confusing. A decade of passenger research we have carried out makes this clear. This action plan contains significant steps towards passengers having simpler and easier ways of buying tickets.

‘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.’

The DfT said industry body the Rail Delivery Group had also helped develop the proposals, along with regulator the Office of Rail and Road. Passenger groups, technology firms, ticket retailers and train operators also provided input.


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