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It’s time to fix Britain’s broken rail fares system

Transport Focus’s extensive passenger research tells us that the case for changing all of Britain’s outdated and outmoded fares and ticketing system is overwhelming. Last year Transport Focus joined with the rail industry in launching the ‘Easier Fares’ consultation – this also found an overwhelming desire for change.

The fares reform proposals out today contain a lot of things that are sensible and long overdue: the spread of single journey-based pricing will simplify and make the system easier to explain. New fares that match the way that people want to travel today will make rail more attractive.

Current fares regulation does stand in the way of achieving much of this. But regulation also caps some prices so talk of reforming regulation could make some people nervous. At this stage, it is hard to work out the precise implications of these proposals – most people will think in terms of ‘what does it mean for my fare’ but, understandably, it will be some time before this is known.

Moving on before knowing this, therefore, is something of an act of faith, albeit a necessary one. It will be essential that the industry, in partnership with Governments and working with passenger groups, embarks on a series of pilots where these proposals can be trialled. These means change can be worked through, mapped and understood. They will provide a means to build up trust and confidence in any new structure. Transport Focus will ensure that the voice of passengers is heard in this process.

Changes are also needed to underpin the Department for Transports recent, welcome, proposed extension of the successful London pay as you go scheme to a much broader area across the South East.

The current process is broken and its faults well known. The time for piecemeal changes has gone – we need root and branch reform to maximise the benefits and boost value for money ratings. Let’s get on with it!

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