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Rail industry seeks fare reform

Ticket machine at a train station

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is set to launch a public consultation seeking a ‘roadmap’ for reforming fares regulation to make choosing the right ticket easier for passengers.

RDG says the current system, which was established in the 1995 Ticketing Settlement Agreement, is outdated and has led to the creation of around 55 million different fares. The group raises concerns over the fact that regulation has “failed to keep pace with the rise of smart phone technology or how people work and travel today”.

A recent report by KPMG shows only one in three rail passengers feel very confident that they’ve bought the best value ticket for their journey, while only 29 per cent were satisfied with the experience of buying their ticket.

RDG says the consultation will help the industry establish updated, fit-for-purpose fares regulation. Along with Transport Focus, the passenger watchdog, the group will seek the views of businesses, passenger groups, stakeholders, employees and the wider public on what the fares of the future should look like.

A final report will be published based on the feedback, which RDG says will include proposals to governments with options for fares reform. The group stresses that any schemes put forward will not require a change in average ticket price or extra taxpayer support.

Key factors that will be considered in these proposals include making fares transparent, predictable and fair, as well as easier to use. Suggestions will also consider integration with other modes of transport, offering personalised and flexible fares for passengers in different markets, enabling growth and efficiency, and providing funding for investment to avoid the need for taxpayer subsidy.

Paul Plummer, CEO of RDG, said: “Unpicking the regulation of a £10 billion-a-year fares system that underpins such a vital public service means there are no quick and easy solutions. The change that’s needed won’t be easy and the industry doesn’t have all the answers, which is why we want to hear views from passengers, communities and businesses in all parts of the country.”

Anthony Smith, CEO of Transport Focus, added: “Rail passengers want a simpler, more understandable and modern fares system which matches the way we now travel. Opening up the debate and looking at the pros and cons of various reform options is welcome.”

Alex Hayman, MD of public markets at Which? commented: “Rail passengers have struggled for far too long with a confusing ticketing system that can make it hard to pay the right fare, so passenger focused reform of the fare system is long overdue. The rail industry and government must ensure that any reforms tackle the poor levels of passenger satisfaction with the current ticketing system and are implemented swiftly.”

Adrian Parkes, CEO of the GTMC said: “It has been encouraging to see the government recognise the need for increased investment in regional rail infrastructure. However, for rail to remain a relevant form of transport for business travellers, similar improvements need to be made not only to the rail network and facilities onboard such as wifi access and adequate seating but to the current regulations around rail ticketing and fares.

“Our own research within the business travel community has highlighted that there is strong demand for more flexible ticketing. Over two thirds of those business travellers we questioned (66 per cent) stated they were very interested in flexible ticketing that enabled you to change the times of a journey. Greater clarity and a fairer, simpler approach to fares is needed so that business travellers can be incentivised to use the rail network.”

raildeliverygroup.com

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