Train tickets could be dramatically changed under plans for “root and branch” reforms unveiled by the trade body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
Today’s range of fare options have not kept up with the rise of smartphone technology and how people work or travel, according to the RDG, which has launched a public consultation into the fares system.
The announcement follows research commissioned by the the organisation from KPMG which shows that only 34 per cent of rail customers are very confident that they bought the best value ticket for their last journey.
But the RDG’s CEO Paul Plummer has warned that there are no “quick-and-easy solutions” when it comes to unpicking the regulation of a £10 billion a year system.
He added: “Working together, we want to develop proposals to reform fares and regulation to make it easier for our customers to get the right ticket, enhancing trust in the system and supporting continued investment to improve the service.
“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.”
Passenger watchdog Transport Focus has agreed to work with the RDG on the consultation, which has received the backing of Which?.
But RMT general secretary Mick Cash was sceptical of change and repeated the organisation’s call for public ownership of the country’s railways.
He said: “No one trusts Britain’s rip-off private rail companies to do the right thing by passengers when it come to fares and ticketing.
“These are the same bunch of spivs who have hacked back on staffing levels and axed ticket offices in the name of profit.”
Rail fare regulations have remained unchanged since the mid-1990s and assume that all customers will buy their tickets by visiting a ticket office.
As a result of long-standing anomalies, such as split ticketing, there are now around 55 million different fares for customers, according to the RDG.
Which? managing director of public markets Alex Hayman said: “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 focussed 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.”
A public consultation will be launched on June 4 to help establish the principles of what future rail fares should look like. An initial report from KPMG has already suggested that there should be a short-term push to traditional digital with a longer term push to ‘open gating’ and biometric tokens.
This work will then inform a final report with proposals to governments which will be published in late autumn.