Selected train companies are to trial ‘radical’ changes to fares aimed at giving passengers ‘the best possible deal every time they travel’.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies and Network Rail, said trials of new pricing, simpler routes, and the removal of unnecessary and unwanted fares will start in May.
Ticket machines at London's Waterloo Station
It said the changes would include a best value end-to-end ‘through fare’ for journeys where passengers change trains, by offering one price combining the cheapest fare for each leg of the journey.
Jacqueline Starr, RDG managing director of customer experience, said: '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. 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 RDG said the trials will be designed to establish what changes are needed to regulation and processes so companies can offer simpler fares.
Best-price through fares will be tested with CrossCountry Trains, who the RDG said are obliged by regulations to price through tickets for very long connecting journeys even where customers can save money by ‘split ticketing’ – combining different types of ticket.
The trial will also include routeing changes between London and Sheffield, where regulations mean tickets must be made available that the RDG said are not in step with options available now.
Single-leg pricing will be tested on the London-Glasgow and London-Edinburgh routes.
The RDG said improvements to ticket machines under a ten-point plan will be in place by the end of this year.
Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said the plans should be the beginning of a process to reform a ‘horribly complicated’ ticketing system.
She added: ‘Whilst improving ticket vending machines is welcome, machines can not replace trained, visible members of staff and we also urge rail companies to protect station staffing levels.’