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Transport User Voice – March 2019 – Action to reform broken rail fares system

27 February 2019

Transport Focus welcomes ‘Easier Fares for All’ proposals

In mid February the rail industry published Easier Fares for All, a raft of proposals designed to overhaul the country’s confusing and outdated fares system.

Last year Transport Focus joined with the rail industry in launching the ‘Easier Fares’ consultation – which turned out to be the biggest ever exercise of its kind by the sectorIn all, nearly 20,000 people from across Britain took part – with additional input from over 60 umbrella organisations representing over 300,000 other organisations, authorities and individuals, including businesses, accessibility groups and local authorities.

The results of this consultation confirmed an overwhelming desire amongst passengers for change. More than eight out of 10 want the fares system overhauled; nine out of 10 want smart or electronic tickets across the whole network and eight out of 10 want fares that encourage travel during quiet periods when there are empty seats.

Transport Focus broadly welcomes the rail industry’s proposals submitted to Government on 18 February for delivering an up-to-date, easier fares and ticketing system that aims to be revenue neutral overall with no change in average fares. They contain a lot of things that are sensible and long overdue, not least the spread of single journey-based pricing to simplify and make the system easier to explain. Transport Focus also welcomes the notion of new pay-as-you-go fares and a ‘tap-in tap-out’ system, both of which could make rail more attractive and more flexible to  better suit the way more people want to travel today.

Transport Focus’s extensive passenger research shows that the case for changing Britain’s outdated and outmoded rail fares and ticketing system is overwhelming.  Transport Focus argues the time for piecemeal change has gone. Radical improvements are required. At the same time, it recognises that current fares regulation does stand in the way of achieving much of the change required, but regulation also caps some prices so talk of reform is likely to make some people nervous.

At this stage, it is hard to work out the precise implications of the rail industry’s 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.

For that reason, Transport Focus argues that vital changes to the fares system must be tested through pilot projects, to map and evaluate the impacts, provide reassurance and allow passengers to better understand the impact of change.

This careful approach can build up trust and will be key to developing widespread confidence in any new structure. It will also afford Transport Focus the scope to ensure that the voice of passengers is heard in every stage of the change process.

Work on fares and ticketing does not end with the Easier Fares proposals. Just before the launch of the reform proposals, the Department for Transport issued a consultation exercise of its own. This seeks views on extending pay-as-you-go on rail in the London and south east area. The consultation, Pay-as-you-go on rail, runs until 1 May 2019 – don’t miss this chance to have your say.

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