Radical changes to rail tickets urged as part of new report

Campaign for Better Transport is calling for a Best Price Guarantee, a low-cost monthly public transport ticket and rewards for frequent travellers in the form of Rail Miles as it launches its blueprint for fares and ticketing reform at Kings Cross Railway Station in London today (31 October).

A fare future for rail: A blueprint for fares and ticketing reform calls for urgent reform to provide a fairer system with simpler ticketing which makes booking easier and provides better value for passengers.

Amongst other things, Campaign for Better Transport wants to see a ‘Best Price Guarantee’ trademark introduced on all tickets to reassure passengers they are always getting the best value fare for their journey; a government-funded trial of low-cost public transport passes (like in Germany and France); and a Rail Miles frequent traveller scheme which rewards passengers the more they travel by train.

Norman Baker, from Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Our research has revealed a fares system riddled with unnecessary complications, bizarre rules and wild inconsistencies which is creating a barrier to train travel. This shouldn’t be the case. We want to see a simpler, fairer, easier and better value system that makes travelling by train a pleasure not a chore.”

A fare future for rail: A blueprint for fares and ticketing reform highlights the myriad of inconsistencies within the fares system and between train operators, revealing that:

  • Anytime day returns cost the equivalent of anywhere between 15p and 62p per mile
  • Travelling during peak times can cost you from as little as six per cent more, to as much as 132 per cent more compared to off-peak
  • A weekly season ticket can cost the same as five day-return tickets, or half as much
  • A monthly season ticket can be 43 per cent cheaper than buying four day returns each week for four weeks, or 20 per cent more expensive
  • The savings from flexi-season tickets, compared to the equivalent number of anytime tickets, range from as much as 31 per cent to as little as five per cent.

Campaign for Better Transport’s report makes 16 recommendations which would help deliver four key aims to create a fairer system with simpler ticketing which makes booking easier and provides better value for passengers.

1. Better value
To provide better value for passengers and help boost passenger numbers, the report calls for a ‘Best Price Guarantee’ and a low-cost regional monthly ticket (similar to those available in some European countries), with rewards for frequent travellers in the form of Rail Miles. Campaign for Better Transport also wants to see Government guarantee that fare rises, in percentage terms, remain level with or below driving cost rises, and reform the way annual fare increases are calculated.

2. Simpler ticketing
To simplify the system the report recommends a slimmed down structure which ensures consistency across the network. Recommendations include scrapping some peak periods, with remaining peak fares costing a maximum of 20 per cent more than off-peak ones, single leg pricing and multi-modal, capped-price smart card and contactless pay-as-you-go ticketing across England.

3. Easier booking
To make buying tickets easier for passengers, the report recommends extending the booking window so that people can buy advance tickets much closer to departure with all ticket types available from retailers whether you book online or person, direct with a train company or through an independent retailer, to encourage competition and innovation. The report also recommends that any ticket office closures should be delayed until after fares and ticketing have been simplified and that there should be more intermodal tickets available, including reviving Rail & Sail tickets which combine train and ferry travel to Europe.

4. Fairer system
To make the whole system fairer the report recommends cutting fare evasion with more ticket barriers and innovative measures such as changing barcode tickets, and expediting the legislation needed to create an arms-length body with responsibility for managing both cost and revenue on the railways.

With more than a third of people (35 per cent) finding rail fares complicated and confusing, and an estimated 55 million different types of tickets available, the ticketing system is long overdue for reform. The Government recognised this and committed to ‘root and branch’ reform in 2021 as part of the Great British Railways: Shapps-Williams Plan for Rail. However, no timeline for reform was ever set and the Transport Bill, which was set to contain the legislation needed to make the necessary reforms, has been postponed indefinitely. With 80 per cent of all rail revenue coming from just five per cent of available fares, Campaign for Better Transport is urging Government to use its blueprint to expediate fares reform and help boost passenger numbers and rail revenue.

Mr Baker added: “The Government needs to shunt the long-awaited reform of fares and ticketing out of the sidings and get it back on track to ensure a bright future for the railways. Creating a rational, easy to understand, easy to use fares and ticketing system could drive more business onto the railway more quickly and more cheaply and should be a priority for the Government and the rail industry.”


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