Easier fares for all – a Railfuture campaign success

The Rail Delivery Group’s ‘Easier fares for all’ proposal released on 18 February 2019 has taken on board all the key points on fares and ticketing that Railfuture has been campaigning for - clearly explained, value for money fares and tickets which offer a choice of flexibility in time and routes to allow passengers to make an informed decision, and smart ticketing which benefits the passenger.

The solution proposed by RDG is single leg pricing. There will be a base one-way price for each leg (or section) of a journey, which can be discounted algorithmically for travel at different times, booking in advance, or for certain types of traveller. The fare for the whole journey will then be the sum of the discounted prices for each leg, and the fare for outward and return journeys can be different. There will be a commitment that the passenger will always get the best value fare for the journey that they wish to make – this commitment is critical for the passenger to trust the system which calculates the fare, as there is no indication of whether the passenger will have any means of checking the calculation.

Single leg pricing should make split ticketing redundant, as effectively the passenger will be getting the split ticket price every time – although this may depend on how the legs are defined.

Smart ticketing is also key to the proposal – over time, more passengers will want to buy travel this way. In particular this will allow operators to offer better value to frequent travellers who may not travel at the same time every day, by setting a cap on the total fare for weekly travel in an area or for a journey, instead of the fixed price of a season ticket.

This will require a massive change to regulation, which clearly the Department for Transport is prepared for, but this must be done carefully to ensure that the protections that currently exist are replaced by new protections where necessary.

Clearly there will be winners and losers, both amongst passengers and operators. The cost neutral requirement from DfT is understandable – there should be no need for extra taxpayer support overall, but negotiations will be necessary with individual operators which will need more or less support. However the focus should be on providing new offers which passengers see as value for money, so increasing passenger numbers and driving revenue generation.

In addition to the change to regulation and the commercial negotiations with operators, a huge technology investment will be required to deliver these new fares and smart ticketing capabilities. The three – five year timescale for completion promised by RDG Is ambitious.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail of the implementation of this proposal. We wait to see commitment to delivery by the industry.

View or download our previous response to the Rail Delivery Group's earlier consultation 'Easier fares'.

Virgin Trains also announced on 3 June 2019 that they are developing a price guarantee app which will refund customers buying a ticket the difference between the normal price and any 'split-ticket' price.

Whilst we wait for these proposals to come to fruition, use our Rail user help guide to help you find the cheapest train tickets in the minefield of the fares system and enjoy your journey.

Lower fare rises

Railfuture recognises that fares have to rise each year but considers that fares should not take an increasing share of passengers’ income. Therefore fares should rise in line with CPI (Consumer Price Index), the government’s preferred measure of inflation, not RPI (Retail Price Index). The rail industry must contain its costs so that financial support from the taxpayer does not increase.

In a further campaign success on 15 August 2018, Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said that CPI could be used in place of RPI for the calculation of future ticket price rises, and wrote letters to unions and the Rail Delivery Group calling for the rail industry to contain its costs so that there is no additional burden on taxpayers.

Clearer tickets

On 10 August 2018 the Rail Delivery Group announced that unnecessary rail industry jargon has been removed from tickets, making them easier for passengers to understand - a success for our campaign.

Fairer fares in future?

Author: Steve Wright - Published At: Tue 28 of Jul, 2020 12:32 BST - (409 Reads)
Better value fares, new ticketing options and aggressive marketing initiatives are needed to attract passengers back to rail after COVID-19. South Western Railway passenger won £5,500 in Touch Smartcard prize draw. Image by South Western Railway.

Fare value and choice

Author: Chris Page - Published At: Tue 29 of May, 2018 19:26 BST - (3792 Reads)
Some people are deterred from travelling by train by the complexity of buying a ticket and the perception that fares are expensive, whilst some passengers are unclear whether they have the best deal so feel ripped off. Image: Play the ticket maze game to reach the Oyster!

Clearer not simpler fares

Author: Chris Page - Published At: Wed 22 of Feb, 2017 18:20 GMT - (5521 Reads)
Radical fare changes proposed by the Rail Delivery Group risk reducing choice and flexibility for passengers. What is needed are clearly explained fares which offer choice, not simplistic ticketing which removes flexibility. In London, the adjacent termini of St Pancras and King’s Cross offer alternative routes to Sheffield, giving holders of ‘any permitted route’ tickets the flexibility to choose either.

Delay repay losers

Author: Jerry Alderson - Published At: Fri 12 of Feb, 2016 20:42 GMT - (7955 Reads)
Britain is perceived to have high rail fares in comparison to other European countries. However, the entire package needs to be considered and few people appreciate some of the ’freebies’ that the fare buys, including a generous refund policy when trains are delayed. Unfortunately some people have abused this – fraudulently – for financial gain, as a news article in the London Evening Standard showed on 11th February 2016 (see photo and headline above).

Fares Complexity

Author: Paul Hollinghurst - Published At: Wed 08 of Jul, 2015 20:34 BST - (5390 Reads)
Railfuture is concerned about the complexity of fares, which are way beyond the abilities of the general public – and even some railway staff – to fully understand. This is a big problem as substantial savings can be made by knowing the ‘best’ ticket to buy. (Photo: Some of the tickets from Paul Hollinghurst’s railway journeys.)

Fare Increase Viewpoint

Author: Jerry Alderson - Published At: Mon 25 of Aug, 2014 16:29 BST - (13192 Reads)
Graphic from the BBC web-site on day that RPI figures were published showing the relationship between rail fare increases in Britain (although actually the England-only increases for the last couple of years) and UK inflation over the last 26 years. The negative RPI on 2009 was caused by a huge drop in mortgage interest rates (which are excluded from CPI calculations).

Press releases

Briefing Note

Rail Fares Increases RPI+3 - view or download (published December 2010)

Rail User Express Rail Action