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June 4, 2018

Rail fares update to be discussed in new consultation

A consultation on how to update rail fares is launching today in the UK as the railway industry aims to radically shake up the ticketing system.

By Adele Berti

A consultation on how to update rail fares is launching today in the UK as the railway industry aims to radically shake up the ticketing system.

Hosted by britainrunsonrail.co.uk, the three-month long consultation is the biggest ever concentrating on rail fares and will invite passengers to fill in a questionnaire either online or via freepost.

Among the options outlined is combining peak and off-peak fares into a ‘flat fare’ system allowing passengers to be charged the same at any time of the day. There are also plans to decrease prices for e-tickets while charging more for paper versions.

Passengers will be able to choose to pay more to travel on ‘reliable and comfortable trains’ and will have a say over whether fares should be based on the quality of the service. This comes following a recent timetable overhaul in the UK, which caused disruption on several parts of the country’s network. Operators are also considering the abolishment of railcards and rewarding regular customers.

The initiative was launched by train operators union Rail Delivery Group and passenger watchdog Transport Focus, which has had to cancel its annual conference taking place today due to ongoing delays to services. The results of the consultation will be recommended to the government in the autumn.

A shake-up of rail fares was on the agenda last month as rail companies announced plans for a reform of fare regulations, which currently date back to the 1990s and need to be updated according to new technologies and changing working patterns.

With 55 million different fares currently available, the industry is urging ministers to simplify ticketing and end anomalies like split ticketing, under which it can be more convenient and cheaper to buy several tickets for a journey instead of a single one.

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer reassured rail passengers that there will not be a rise in the average price fares and that creating a more simple fares system is a top priority. He added: “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.”

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “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…We will ensure the voice of the passenger is heard clearly as part of this consultation.”

Welcoming the consultation, consumer group Which? urged for the introduction of automatic compensation as standard. Which? managing director of public markets Alex Hayman said: “It’s been clear for years that rail fares are too complicated and confusing for passengers, and all too often people don’t get the best fare for their journey. It’s a situation that’s gone on too long and the government needs to make sure that any changes to the fares system are in the best interests of passengers.

“Trust in the industry is chronically low. While fixing the broken fares system will go some way to address this, more must be done for passengers who have to deal with shambolic services day in, day out. That’s why automatic compensation should be introduced across the industry for people who have to endure delays and cancellations.”

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