Welcome action on rail fares and ticketing

13 December 2016

Transport Focus was part of a wide-ranging 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.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“Rail passengers find the fares and ticketing system complex and confusing. A decade of passenger research we have carried out makes this clear. This Action Plan contains significant steps towards passengers having simpler and easier ways of buying tickets.

“Passengers will particularly welcome the easier-to-use options for buying tickets from ticket vending machines. However, long term more fundamental reform is still needed if trust is ever going to be really established in the fares and ticketing system.”

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.

In addition, Anthony Smith welcomed the Government’s recent announcement on 10 December on the reform of penalty fares:

“Train companies should take steps to stop passengers who try to evade paying fares. But those who have made an innocent mistake and been caught out by the rules should be treated with understanding and not immediately assumed to be guilty.  We are pleased that the Government has listened to complaints from passengers set out in our research in 2012 and 2015.  Greater fairness, accountability and an independent right of appeal will be welcomed by passengers who make an honest mistake.”

Commenting on the Action Plan Rail Minister Paul Maynard said:

“The ticket buying experience is all too often complicated and hard to navigate and I am committed to working with industry to make it simpler. We want a more modern and passenger-focused fares and ticketing system which takes advantage of all the benefits of new technology. Rail passengers must be able to trust that they are getting the best possible deal every time they travel.”

Paul Plummer, RDG chief executive, said:

“Train companies want customers to get the best possible deal every time they travel by train.  By next summer train companies will start to test changes to the way fares are structured on some sample routes to give customers simpler, better information. Getting the right ticket for your journey shouldn’t be complicated, and improvements by train companies – including to ticket machines – will help customers find clearer fares they can trust.

“We are very pleased that the government and others are committed to working with the train companies to explore how the complicated fares set-up created over decades can be simplified so that we can deliver customers an even better deal.”

Vickie Sheriff, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Which?, said:

“Rail passengers often struggle to find the cheapest fare as the current ticket system is too complex. Buying a ticket must be made much simpler and it must be easier for people to find the best fare.

“We expressed our concern to the Secretary of State for Transport in the summer and have worked with the Rail Minister and industry since to secure improvements through the joint action plan on rail fares and ticketing presented at today’s forum.”

Click here to read the Action Plan.

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