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DfT works with consumer experts and the rail industry to help passengers choose the best deal on fares

DfT and Which? co-host forum to agree action on ‘too complex’ ticketing systems.

Measures to improve ticketing information for passengers and make it easier for people to choose the best value fare for their journey were agreed today at a forum co-hosted by Rail Minister Paul Maynard and Which?

The Department for Transport, Which?, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and Transport Focus have come together to develop this plan. They have worked closely with the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). Passenger groups, technology firms, ticket retailers and train operators have also provided input.

As a result, a set of clearly defined steps will be carried out over the next year including:

  • 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

Some of the improvements 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

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.

Vickie Sheriff, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Which?, said:

Rail passengers often struggle to find the cheapest fare as the current ticket system is too complex. Buying a ticket must be made much simpler and it must be easier for people to find the best fare.

We expressed our concern to the Secretary of State for Transport in the summer and have worked with the Rail Minister and industry since to secure improvements through the joint action plan on rail fares and ticketing presented at today’s forum.

Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, said:

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.

A working group will review progress against these actions on a monthly basis. We will publish an interim report on delivery against this plan in the ORR’s Annual Consumer Report in July 2017, and will publish a final report in December 2017.

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