Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Transport User Voice – January 2017 – Welcome action on rail fares and ticketing

21 December 2016

In a big win for passengers the Government has announced it will be reforming the penalty fares system.

Transport Focus is pleased to see the Government has listened to complaints from passengers and the issues we raised in our Ticket to Ride reports. Greater fairness, accountability and an independent right of appeal will be welcomed by passengers who make an honest mistake.

Transport Focus first made a series of recommendations on this issue in the 2012 report Ticket to Ride and continued to press for change in an updated report in 2015.

It is right that train companies should take steps to stop passengers who try to evade paying fares. But those who have made an innocent mistake and caught out by the rules should be treated with understanding and not immediately assumed to be guilty.

The proposed changes include:

  • simpler rules on deadlines for payment and appeals
  • passengers who are charged a penalty fare will be able to access a new, third-stage independent appeals panel
  • penalty fares appeals bodies must be independent of train operators and their owners
  • stronger DfT oversight of the appeals process through an annual audit of the penalty fares data.

Transport Focus was also part of a group that agreed The Action Plan for Information on Rail Fares and Ticketing.

The Action Plan should make it easier for people to choose and buy their rail tickets. Produced with the Department for Transport, the Rail Delivery Group, the Office of Rail and Road and Which?, the plan sets out some clearly defined steps which will be carried out over the next year.

The steps in the Action Plan include:

  • how you choose your ticket: taking steps to improve the information passengers are offered so they can make an informed choice of ticket
  • what you buy: enabling innovative new ticket products to emerge in the retail market and ensuring customers always get a simple explanation of their chosen ticket
  • where you buy your ticket: increasing and improving the scope of the where and the ways passengers can buy tickets
  • how you buy your ticket: improving the process of buying a ticket to make it as simple as possible.

Transport Focus has had an ongoing research programme into different aspects of fares and ticketing for eight years.

Some of the improvements in the Action Plan include:

  • An end to jargon like ‘any permitted route’ on tickets and a new online look-up tool explaining the restrictions
  • A heads-up when stocks of the best value Advance tickets are running low
  • Alerts at the time of purchase if changing travel times would be cheaper
  • Ticket machines to give customers clear choices including cheaper options where available by changing time or service
  • Advance tickets where available may be purchased on the day of travel from longer distance operators
  • The first time a customer holding a valid railcard forgets it at the time of travel they will be able to claim back any additional expense.

Click here to read the Action Plan.

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