Could new train smartcard save you money?

Train ticketPA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Department of Transport has announced an overhaul to the way that we pay for train travel, including the introduction of a smartcard, which could always ensure you pay the lowest possible amount for your ticket.

So what are the changes, and what will they mean for you?



The idea is that you will either be able to scan a card a bit like London's Oyster card through the ticket booth (alternatively you can scan a barcode on your smartphone or print off your own ticket at home).

This offers two major benefits for commuters. First it will save us queuing at station ticket machines and booths. Second, it will automatically allocate the cheapest ticket for the route and time you have travelled, rather than relying on you to be an expert in the byzantine workings of the ticket system.

The government says it will also save on the cost of the tickets, but let's face it, that's less than a penny per trip so is hardly going to rock anyone's world.

Better for train companies

At the same time there will be bonuses for train companies. The smartcards will collect information on where and when people are travelling, so they can plan services more effectively. Plus they are confident it will help clamp down on fare dodgers, because smartcard barriers would be in place in every station, so that everyone pays their fair share.

They will also be able to cut staff in ticket offices, or close them altogether, because more people are buying their ticket remotely. Norman Baker, transport minister, said in an interview with the Metro newspaper: "We've got train companies knocking on our doors to get ticket offices closed so we need to put in place measures that work."

Of course, this didn't go down well with the union. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "The Lib Dems within this rotten coalition Government have admitted that they are prepared to cave in to the train operators' demands to axe ticket offices in the name of profit and at the expense of passenger service and safety. They have given the green light to turning our railway stations into a de-staffed, criminals' paradise. Not only are the train companies being allowed to get away with fare increases of up to 11% in January, they are also now being given approval to smash up ticket offices in an act of pure corporate vandalism."


And whether this strikes a chord with you or not, there remain concerns about what happens to those who fall through the cracks in the new system. There will be those who don't have a smartcard, smartphone or a printer, who are baffled by the new system and the barriers. There will also be those scuppered by everyday life, who lose their card, or who planned to scan a code on their phone but ran out of battery life before they reached the station.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Passenger Focus, said in response to the closure of ticket offices:"Passengers tell us that when they go to a station, they value knowing that there will be staff on hand to help with enquiries and to provide a sense of security."

Before we start celebrating the benefits, we are going to need to see cast-iron solutions to what happens to people who fall foul of the system if there's no-one around to help.

Aside from the smart ticketing, there will also be changes that affect season tickets. More tiers will be introduced in order to ensure that those who get up early and travel before the rush hour pay less than those travelling at peak times.

The changes will start to come into effect next year in London and the South East. Over time the system is expected to be rolled out elsewhere.

Tax tricks to improve your wealth
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Could new train smartcard save you money?

If you wear a uniform of any kind to work and have to wash, repair or replace it yourself, you may be able to reclaim tax paid over the last four years. For some people, this could mean a windfall worth hundreds of pounds

The interest you receive on savings accounts (with the exception of cash Isas) is automatically taxed at a rate of 20%.

Higher-rate taxpayers therefore tend to owe money on the interest they are paid throughout the year. If, however, you are on a low income or not earning at all, you should be able to claim all or some of the tax deducted back

You can apply for a refund of vehicle tax if you are the current registered keeper or were the last registered keeper of your vehicle that no longer needs a tax disc

If you pay tax on a company, personal or State Pension through PAYE (the system employers use to deduct tax from your wages), you may well end up overpaying

There is a limit to the amount you need to pay in NI, whether or not you work for an employer.

Instances in which you may find that you have overpaid include if you work two or more jobs and earn more than £817 a week and if you move from self-employment to employment, but continue to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions


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