Once again we find ourselves asking: are (rail) fares fair?

02 September 2015

Passengers tell us that value for money is one of their biggest priorities. We also know that, for many, there is a gap between the broadly positive satisfaction scores for individual journeys, and the sense of trust in the train operator as a whole.

Yesterday we heard that one company appeared to have confirmed its policy is to not proactively offer the best ticket to customers at its ticket offices, instead assuming that they have researched the deals available. We wrote to First Great Western seeking urgent clarification of this. It denies that this is the policy and has said that training will be improved for staff, who are doing their best with a complicated system.

So why the confusion? Well, there are many ticket types to choose from, depending on time of day travelled and various other factors. There are singles v returns. You can ‘split’ your journey in order to take advantage of quirks in the pricing.

It’s no wonder the rail regulator has had to publish a video guide on choosing the right ticket. But in what other industry do you need a how-to guide in order to give it your money?!

A new consumer law which takes effect in October will require train operators to ensure passengers are adequately informed before they purchase a ticket. And yet companies are still placing the burden on passengers to seek out their own way through the maze of complexity that is the ticketing system. This must end.

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