Towards fair fares?

15 March 2012

The recent Government fares consultation makes a number of important and welcome statements. The consultation clearly acknowledges the effect that the current fares and ticketing system is having on passengers. Also, the Government states it wants to make it easier for passengers to get to the right information and to buy the right ticket. The Government continues its commitment to fares regulation and the ‘turn up and go’ railway – Passenger Focus has long argued for the continued existence of both. Over the last few years we’ve carried out extensive research on ticket vending machines, internet buying, ticket queues and value for money – seeing ourpassenger research reflected in this consultation is positive.

Also, it will be crucial to make a wider variety of tickets available to passengers. This could include helping more passengers access the benefits of season tickets – part-time workers, the majority of whom are women, should find ‘carnet’ ticketing useful if they are priced right. Smartcards can be used to underpin these changes. However, there is clearly going to be change, both to the system of regulation and ticketing. Passenger Focus will look at the detail of these proposals very carefully and ensure passengers voices are heard in this debate.

Two proposals in particular need careful attention.

Let’s try to tempt passengers away from peak time travel, rather than penalise them for doing so – many commuters have little choice when deciding when to travel.

Changes to off peak long distance fares regulation represent a leap in the dark. The affordable, walk-up railway, could easily disappear as passengers are forced to be inflexible and book ahead. No-one really knows how passengers will change behaviour – any changes will have to be monitored very carefully to ensure the effect on passengers is well known and understood.

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