The transport user watchdog has repeated its call for more flexible rail ticketing as passengers were hit by an above inflation rise in regulated fares.
Train operators have insisted that more flexible ticketing is dependent on wider fare reforms.
Commenting on the 2.6% rail fare increase, which took effect on Monday, Anthony Smith (pictured), chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘Today’s fare increase makes it even more important that, when travel restrictions start to be lifted, the industry is able to attract people back by offering fares that match how we know people hope to live, work and travel in future.
‘This could mean new flexible season tickets which offer better value for part-time commuters, and other tickets based on how people want to use the railway.’
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operating companies said that it was ultimately the Government that decides how much it wants passengers to pay towards the cost of running the railway but agreed that increasing passenger numbers when travel restrictions ease is ‘essential’.
It said reform under its ‘radical’ proposals could enable:
- ‘tap-in, tap-out’ pay-as-you-go being rolled out across the country
- greater local control over fares in devolved areas and better integration of rail fares with those for other modes of transport.
- savings for commuters working flexibly and travelling in off-peak hours
- overcrowding to be reduced by up to a third on some of the busiest long-distance services.
Robert Nisbet, the RDG's director of nations and regions, said ‘To give passengers better value, we want to work with government to recast how people buy their fares.
'Rather than needing a crystal ball to predict your plans to the last minute before buying a ticket, we want the whole country to benefit from a new, more flexible system where people pay-as-they-go and automatically get the best deal at the end of the week or month, similar to London.
‘This would deliver a system which incentivises more people back to the network and helps drive a truly national economic recovery.’