Action plan developed to improve rail fares & ticketing information for passengers

13 December 2016  •  Author: Katie Sadler, European Railway Review

The Department for Transport (DfT) together with Which?, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and Transport Focus develop an action plan for information on rail fares and ticketing.

An action plan to improve ticketing and fare information for passengers was agreed on 13 December at a forum co-hosted by UK Rail Minister Paul Maynard and Which?

The action plan was devised by the DfT together with Which? the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and Transport Focus, who worked closely with the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). There was also input from passenger groups, technology firms, ticket retailers and train operators

The Action plan for information on rail fares and ticketing can be downloaded here.

The DfT action plan lists a number of defined steps that will be carried out over the next year, these are:

  • How you choose your ticket.   We will take steps to improve the information passengers are offered so they can make an informed choice of ticket.
  • What you buy.  We will enable innovative new ticket products to emerge in the retail market and ensure customers always get a simple explanation of their chosen ticket.
  • Where you buy your ticket.  We will increase and improve the scope of where and the ways passengers can buy tickets.
  • How you buy your ticket.  We will improve the process of buying a ticket to make it as simple as possible.

The publication highlights some of the improvements which 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. 

“The ticket buying experience is all too often complicated and hard to navigate”

Commenting on the 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.”

“This action plan contains significant steps towards passengers having simpler and easier ways of buying tickets”

Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, added: 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.

Responding to the launch of the plan, Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The Action Plan announced today contains lots of small but important steps towards making the rail ticket system a bit simpler and more usable and this is welcome. What’s missing, however, is the fundamental reform the fares system needs, such as introduction of equal season ticket discounts for part-time commuters and an end to split ticketing. Without these larger reforms, we will still be left with an insanely complex and unfair fares system.”

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