The call for rail ticket reform

22nd February 2019

Passenger experience is becoming an increasing focus for rail operators. Communication is a key part of keeping rail users happy, from efficient complaints handling through to effective notification of journey changes and train running times. Communication is always better when it’s simpler. So what do rail passengers want? According to over 19,000 passengers in a report from the Rail Delivery Group, simpler fares that they can understand.

What did rail passengers say?

With 8 out of 10 rail users calling for ticket reform and 9 out of 10 wanting smart or e-tickets with the ability to cap prices, it’s clear that passengers want travelling by rail to be as simple and convenient as possible. According to the RDG, the results of the customer feedback could be summed up in five key principles:

  • Simplicity: customers want it to be easy to find the right choices for their fare
  • Value for Money: customers want ticket prices to be logical
  • Fair Pricing: customers don’t want to work hard to find the best price for their journey, and want to see the end of ”split ticketing”
  • Flexibility: customers want to be able to tailor fares and deals to what they actually need
  • Assurance: customers ant clear legislation that protects their rights

Where to start

Before any significant changes can be made by rail operators, we need to start with regulatory changes. The current confines of the existing regulation, that haven’t changed since the mid-nineties, mean that reform can’t take place that actually reflects the way passengers want to use the rail system today, and the advances in technology over the past twenty years. The result? A complicated ticketing system that makes it difficult for customers to find the best deal. Before moving forward, the government and the transport industry need to work together to review and replace outdated regulations.

Implementing rail ticket change

If changes can be made to government regulations to give rail operators the space to overhaul the ticketing and fares system, technology will play a key role in the reform. A significant change will also come from ending the peak and off-peak system, allowing greater flexibility in ticket pricing and potentially reducing costs of walk-up fares, as well as easing congestion on the first and last off-peak trains.

What’s the reality?

With an already incredibly complex ticketing system in place, there are fears that further changes could complicate the system further. The end of the “cliff edge” of peak and off peak tickets could mean adding more options and different prices. The plan to make these changes “revenue neutral” means if some ticket prices are being reduced, others will be increasing, having a serious impact on some travellers.

Testing of a new system could begin taking place as early as later this year, with the RDG stating its proposed changes could be rolled out in as little as three years. One thing is for sure when it comes to the existing ticketing system in the UK; both rail operators and passengers are ready for change.

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