Rail operators are to test fare changes that are designed to introduce clearer, simpler ticket choices.
Trials start in May on routes between London and Sheffield and from London to Scotland, in what the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has called the most radical ticket overhaul for 30 years.
The scheme is designed to offer the best value through fares, removing the need for split ticketing. RDG also wants to introduce an action plan for more user-friendly ticket machines.
As part of the test, a route will be overhauled to show what is on offer, ending the existing situation whereby changes to train services in many cases only allow fares to be added to the system (rather than older, less relevant routes that customers do not use being removed from the system). This will include:
N A best value end-to-end ‘through fare’ will be offered for test journeys where customers change trains, by offering one price combining the cheapest fare for each leg of the journey. Current rules require operators to set and maintain a through price even where there are cheaper deals.
N Easier journey planning by showing customers the best price in each direction on selected routes, allowing customers to mix and match the best fare - like airline bookings.
This requires changes to regulated return fares (dating back to the 1980s) that can’t be sold easily online, giving customers more clarity and simplicity.
A ten-point plan and design guidelines for ticket machines include getting rid of jargon, informing customers when a machine will start to sell cheaper off-peak tickets, and making clear what types of tickets machines do and do not sell. All the improvements to ticket machines will be in place by the end of this year, with several by the summer.
Vickie Sheriff, Which? Director of Campaigns and Communications, said: “This is just the first step. The rail industry must now deliver on this plan as passengers will expect big changes to make fares and ticketing system easier to understand. People must be able find the best ticket for their journey and cheaper fares must not be hidden.”
For more on this story, see RAIL 820, published on February 15.