Cheaper fares for rail passengers using e-tickets rather than paper tickets purchased at stations is just one idea being consulted on in a bid to bring rail fares into the present day.
Fare regulations have remained largely unchanged since they were introduced in 1995 and have failed to keep pace with the rise of smartphone technology or how people work and travel today, given increases in both part-time working and self-employment.
This, combined with individual train franchise agreements and long-standing anomalies in the system, has resulted in there being about 55 million different fares, according to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – the body which represents the rail industry.
Research published by KPMG earlier this year found that only one in three (34%) rail customers is “very confident” that they bought the best value ticket for their last journey.
As such, the RDG, alongside rail watchdog Transport Focus, has launched the first-ever public consultation for rail passengers in England, Scotland, and Wales to have their say about what the fares system should look like. In Northern Ireland, fares are set by rail operator Translink.
What does the consultation ask for views on?
Key questions the consultation asks for views on include whether fares should be cheaper for e-ticket users, whether split-ticket prices – where you get cheaper fares splitting the journey into different elements – should be scrapped, and whether passengers who make the same journey on a regular basis should see costs capped.
The questionnaire also considers whether fares should be based on the level of service received and whether discounts for off-peak travel should be ditched.
It does not, however, ask for views on the controversial use of the retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation to calculate regulated annual fare increases instead of the often lower consumer prices index (CPI).
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, comments: “Reforming the rules about how tickets are sold and bought has the potential to transform the buying experience for customers, making it easier for people to be confident they are getting the right ticket. “These reforms support what the industry is already doing to make improvements to fares alongside record investment in new train carriages, upgraded stations and extra services.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, adds: “Our research shows that rail passengers want a fares system that is simple to use, easy to understand and is flexible enough to cater to how people work and travel today. The rail industry has grasped the nettle and we will ensure the voice of the passenger is heard clearly as part of this consultation.”
To have you say, visit Britainrunsonrail.co.uk. The consultation closes on 10 September with a final report due in late autumn.
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