One in five (13%) are at risk of buying a more expensive ticket than necessary or are at risk of a penalty fare (7%) when using rail ticket machines, according to research by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
A mystery shopping exercise carried out by the rail regulator also found that two thirds (65%) of people did not see any information on the type of tickets which could or couldn’t be bought on machines, 57% reported that ticket machines did not explain the times when peak and off-peak tickets could be used for travel, and almost a third (32%) said no information on ticket restrictions or validity were provided by the machines.
As a result, the ORR is calling on train operators to introduce a price guarantee where it refunds passengers who find they could have bought a cheaper ticket.
It has also asked the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, to identify how it plans to address the issues the mystery shopping exercise has brought to light.
Some rail companies are, however, launching trials this May to simplify rail fares to ensure travellers always get the best deal.
John Larkinson, the ORR’s director of railway markets and economics, says: "Everyone travelling by train should be able to buy the most appropriate ticket for their journey.
"Despite investment in new technology and the removal of jargon from ticket machines, our new research shows passengers may be paying more for their journey than necessary.
"To quickly benefit passengers, the Rail Delivery Group must set out what improvements to ticket machines will be made in the short term, and we are calling on train companies to commit to refund anyone who finds that they could have bought a cheaper ticket for the same journey."