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Passenger Focus responds to Government’s rail fares and ticketing consultation

28 March 2013

Independent passenger watchdog Passenger Focus has responded to the Government’s consultation on rail fares and ticketing, which was prompted by last year’s study into value for money on Britain’s railways.
 
Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said: “It appears that smart ticketing has the potential to address some of the concerns passengers have about the current system – we welcome that.  But with passenger satisfaction with value for money falling, the Government must think very carefully about how much regulated fares should be allowed to increase next January.”
 
In its response to the consultation, Passenger Focus made four key points:

  • Train companies need to take greater responsibility for selling the right ticket – not put the burden on passengers to buy the right ticket.
  • Encouraging commuters away from the busiest trains should not result in prices going up for those who cannot be flexible.
  • Self-service ticket machines at stations are currently not good enough to justify major reductions in ticket offices across the railway.
  • Long-distance price caps are still needed to protect passengers – regulated fares rose by 0.2% in real terms between 1995 and 2010 while unregulated rose by 47.7% in the same period.

Mr Smith, added, said: “Incentivising commuters to travel at less busy times, and less often, is one thing – but not at the expense of penalising those who have no choice but to get into work when they do.
 
“There are many elements of the current ticketing structure passengers want to see retained. For example, Britain’s predominantly ‘turn up and go’ system and that, if an inflexible ticket suits you, long-distance prices can be very reasonable.  A key message from Passenger Focus is that train companies and others who sell tickets need to take more responsibility to help passengers to the right ticket, rather than expect them to pick from a baffling array of different prices.  Dramatic improvement in the way fares information is presented to passengers, together with smart ticketing, should make a big difference.”  
 
Passenger Focus also sets out specific changes it believes should be made to help passengers.  These include:

  • train companies doing more to stop passengers inadvertently paying more than they need to
  • allowing people to mix and match between inflexible Advance and flexible Off-Peak single tickets by setting single fares at half of the current return price
  • changes to aspects of ticketing that passengers think are unreasonable – e.g. in future giving credit for what passengers have paid already if a new ticket needs to be bought
  • making it transparent when a ticket can and cannot be used, both before purchase and once passengers have a ticket in their hand.

Mr Smith, said: “There are a whole host of changes that train companies should make to the fares and ticketing system to give passengers confidence that they are not paying more than they need; to improve passengers’ experiences using self-service ticket machines and websites; and to signal the industry’s determination to act in a fair and reasonable way towards passengers when it comes to tickets.”

Notes to editors

  1. Please click the link below to view/download Passenger Focus’s response:  
    https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research/publications/passenger-focus-response-to-the-governments-rail-fares-and-ticketing-review 
  2. Passenger Focus is the official, independent consumer organisation representing the interests of rail users nationally and bus, coach and tram users across England outside London. We want to make a difference for rail, bus, coach and tram passengers.
  3. We’ll do this by:
    – providing authoritative advice for industry based on sound research
    – securing improvements to services – both big and small-scale improvements
    – helping passengers with advice and information~
    – campaigning for change
    – acting on rail passenger complaints
  4. For further information please contact:
    Dervish Mertcan
    Communications Officer
    Tel: 0300 123 0847 / 07918 626 045
    or e-mail: dervish.mertcan@transportfocus.org.uk  
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