Plans to overhaul rail fares system could end split ticketing
Proposals for a sweeping overhaul of rail ticketing in Britain aim to stop passengers having to buy split tickets to get the cheapest fares for some journeys.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has published a series of measures to simplify the fares system.
The Easier Fares For All plan represents the industry’s first major contribution to the Government-commissioned Williams Review, which is evaluating all aspects of the rail network.
Some fares would go up and some would go down under the RDG’s proposals, which are designed to be “revenue neutral”.
Split ticketing is currently used by savvy travellers to pay less than the price of a single ticket on some routes at certain times.
The loophole involves buying multiple tickets for different sections of the same journey.
The RDG claimed its plan would remove the need for split ticketing as passengers would always be charged the best value fare.
Britain’s rail ticketing system is underpinned by regulations which are unchanged from the mid-1990s, and have not kept pace with technology or how people work and travel.
Several layers of complexity have been added through individual franchise agreements over the past three decades, meaning around 55 million different fares exist.
A KPMG survey commissioned by the RDG found that only one in three (34%) passengers were “very confident” they bought the best value ticket for their last journey, and just 29% were “very satisfied” with the ticket-buying experience.
The RDG is calling for a switch to a single leg pricing structure which would allow passengers to “mix and match” the types of tickets they buy.
It believes this would reduce the need for passengers to commit to travelling at specific times and make it easier for them to change plans.
The existing regime means some single tickets for long distance trips are just £1 cheaper than getting a return.
Single leg pricing would help with the roll out of pay as you go systems and the use of mobile phones to pay for travel.
The RDG is also keen to see regulations around peak and off-peak pricing changed to spread demand for train travel across the day.
The plan follows a public consultation which received responses from nearly 20,000 people.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, said: “Reconfiguring a decades-old system originally designed in an analogue era isn’t simple, but this plan offers a route to get there quickly.
“Ultimately, it is up to governments to pull the levers of change.
“So this report is a call on them to work with us to update the necessary regulations and subsequently the system of fares.”
Watchdog Transport Focus, which carried out the consultation in partnership with the RDG, welcomed the proposals and declared that “the time for piecemeal change has gone”.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “RDG’s contribution to the Williams Review is welcome.
“In the short term, we are ready to work with the industry on how their proposals might work and be tested in the real world.”
Trials of changes to the fares system are expected to begin later this year. The new system could be rolled out on an operator by operator basis over the next three to five years.