Pace of change a key factor for fares and ticketing reform

“Great British Railways must be bold and ruthless, with a new fares and ticketing system that works for the passenger and sells.”

That’s the message from industry leaders to the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), which is tasked with setting up a new GBR public body to oversee the rail network and drive forward the Government’s rail reform agenda.

Among GBRTT’s main priorities is its Fares, Ticketing & Retail (FTR) workstream. This aims to develop a more modern retail experience, a rollout of digital ticketing across the network, contactless and pay as you go systems in urban areas, and “simplified, best-available value-for-money options on journeys outside urban areas”.

These changes have been described as ‘quick wins’ for passengers and improvements that can be implemented ahead of legislation being passed to establish GBR on a full legal basis.

However, according to independent fares and ticketing expert Mark Smith (also known as the Man in Seat 61), a more wholesale overhaul is required if the industry is to plug a financial black hole of £2 billion per annum and restore passenger numbers to at least their pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking on February 28, at the first of RAIL’s new three-part webinar series on how rail needs to evolve in the next two, ten and 30 years, Smith advocated a move towards network-wide single-leg ticketing, combined with a massive simplification of fare types.

Independent Rail Retailers Chairman Alistair Lees agreed that the pace of change needs to be quicker. However, he would prefer changes to fares and ticketing to be trialled in a more targeted way on individual routes or regions, before being considered for national rollout.

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■ The second of RAIL’s three-part webinar series will take place between 1030-1200 on March 28. Focusing on the next decade across Control Period 7 and beyond, it will feature speakers from organisations including GBRTT, AECOM, SYSTRA, Atkins and Transport for All. To register for free, visit:

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  • Güntürk Üstün - 09/03/2023 22:05

    The railway system in Britain is truly changing for good this time around. In 2021, the Government announced the Plan for Rail, a new strategic direction. And, the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), is working across the rail industry to lay the foundations for a thriving, connected, greener Britain. GBRTT's purpose is clear. It is creating a simpler, better railway for everyone in Britain. Working together is crucial as GBRTT removes barriers to success and enhance efficiencies as it goes. What shall we say? May its railway tracks be open! Dr. Güntürk Üstün

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  • Robert Harvey - 26/03/2023 20:05

    So we are to have universal e ticketing. So the likes of "me" who doesn't own a smartphone will be excluded from rail travel. Brilliant (not)

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  • John Revell - 19/04/2023 22:43

    The outrageous cost of walk up and go fares usually means the car wins out - sad when my wife and I both spent more than fifteen years working on the railway. For many years a simple structure comprising season tickets, standard single and returns and cheap day tickets was more than adequate. Even the introduction of saver returns was unnecessary complication. My UK family would make regular use of the railway if there was a return to affordable walk up and go ticketing. We now live in the USA and return to the UK 4-5 times a year for work and to visit family and would use the train to travel from Heathrow to Peterborough and Dundee if walk up and go fares were affordable. We cannot advance purchase as flights are often delayed or immigration takes an age so we cannot predict what train we need. A one way walk up and go standard class fare to Dundee is an unbelievable £235.10 - for two of us that is £470.20. The same on the way back would take the cost to £940.40. I have just arranged an Astra size hire car for two weeks for £500.00. To increase rail usage we need a return to a simple ticket structure with:- - the elimination of advance purchase, compulsory reservation, unsustainably cheap fares that are subsidised by overpriced open tickets - affordable open tickets made possible as everyone pays a more realistic journey cost All this would do far more than 'developing a more modern retail experience, a rollout of digital ticketing' something many potential travelers neither want or can use.

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