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Rail ticket consultation could see fares cut for commuters

The pricing structure for rail tickets could be overhauled in the future with the rail industry consulting on a number of initiatives, including whether to scrap cheap advance tickets and basing fares solely on travel distance.

The consultation by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which oversees Britain’s railways, seeks to develop a new “revenue neutral” approach that could attract more people to travel by train.

It also asks respondents to state whether they believe it should be cheaper to travel on routes with slower, less regular and more basic trains, with better services becoming more expensive.

Other possibilities included in the consultation are abolishing peak and off-peak fares so that passengers are charged the same throughout busier and quieter periods, giving discounts to regular travellers such as commuters.

Also considered is the possibility that e-tickets could be cheaper than standard paper tickets, due to the difference in transaction costs.

The responses will ultimately inform a report containing proposals for governments to consider.

“Fare regulations have remained largely unchanged since they were introduced in 1995 and assume customers will buy their ticket by visiting a ticket office,” RDG states.

“Further layers of requirements have been added through individual franchise agreements, with little or nothing taken away. This means that long-standing anomalies are becoming locked in, resulting in bigger problems for customers, and there are now around 55 million different fares.”

Currently, train fares in the UK are typically higher than any other country in Europe.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said he wants to create “an easier-to-use fares system”.

He went on: “Reforming the rules about how tickets are sold and bought has the potential to transform the buying experience for customers, making it easier for people to be confident they are getting the right ticket.

“These reforms support what the industry is already doing to make improvements to fares alongside record investment in new train carriages, upgraded stations and extra services.”

Research commissioned by the RDG found that only one in three (34 per cent) passengers are “very confident” they bought the best-value ticket for their last journey, while just 29 per cent were “very satisfied” with the ticket-buying experience.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Our research shows that rail passengers want a fares system that is simple to use, easy to understand and is flexible enough to cater to how people work and travel today.

“The rail industry has grasped the nettle and we will ensure the voice of the passenger is heard clearly as part of this consultation.”

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