Huw urges constituents to have their say in the first ever public consultation on rail fares

Huw urges constituents to have their say in the first ever public consultation on rail fares

 

Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merriman, has welcomed the launch of the consultation by Britain’s rail companies, working with independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus, for customers, businesses, passenger groups, employees and the public to have their say about what the fares system should look like.

 

The consultation follows a survey of rail customers carried out by KPMG on behalf of the rail industry. The report finds that in the South East and East of England only 36% of customers are very confident that they have the best value rail ticket.

 

Fare regulations have remained largely unchanged since they were first introduced in 1995 and assume that all customers will buy their ticket by visiting a ticket office. Further layers of requirements have been added through individual franchise agreements, with little or nothing taken away.

 

This means that long-standing anomalies are becoming locked in, resulting in bigger problems for customers, and there are now around 55 million different fares.  Regulations have also failed to keep pace with the rise of smartphone technology or how people work and travel today, with part-time working and self-employment having increased by over a third in 22 years.

 

Responding to the launch of the consultation Huw said:  “With 55 million different fares options, buying rail tickets can be a confusing process often leaving my constituents wondering if they’ve got value for money. It is great to see the rail industry grasping the nettle and tackling this issue head on. We need to ensure that customers have confidence that they are buying the tickets that are right for them, which is why I am encouraging my constituents to have their say in reforming the fares and ticketing system.”

 

Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “This consultation will ensure the views of passengers, communities and businesses will be represented when we present our proposals to governments later this year. Reforming the rules about how tickets are sold and bought has the potential to transform the buying experience for customers, making it easier for people to be confident they are getting the right ticket. These reforms support what the industry is already doing to make improvements to fares alongside record investment in new train carriages, upgraded stations and extra services.”

 

Consultation responses can be given by visitingwww.britainrunsonrail.co.uk/fares. The hashtag for the consultation is #easierfares

 

  1. Last October, the partnership railway of the public and private sectors published a long-term plan for change – In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity. It included a commitment to increase customer satisfaction by developing practical proposals for the reform of fares.

 

  1. The 1995 Ticketing and Settlement Agreement can be found here – chapters 4 and 6 set out how fares should be set and sold.

 

  1. In addition to changes already underway as part of the fares action plan which will improve the buying experience for customers, over the next six months, the industry will be looking to run a number of trials to test options for a future fares structure.

Also, train companies will be selling more advance fares on the day of travel and more train company websites and apps will display information about when advance fares are running out. The industry will also be continuing to simplify and improve the information printed on orange tickets.

 

  1. Anomalies: examples of some of the long-standing anomalies which are becoming increasingly apparent include:

·        ‘Through-ticket peak-time premiums’, where a customer takes a journey involving more than one leg. The first leg is on a peak-time train and the second leg is on an off-peak service. The customer might be charged a peak-time fare for the whole journey because regulation means train companies have to offer one through-fare. For example, a passenger travelling from north to west via London can end up paying for a peak fare for their entire journey when half their trip is on an off-peak service.

·        Inflexible 7-day, monthly or annual season tickets, where smart ticketing could offer better products to passengers who work part time.  Becausesmart schemes have been required to sell the same products as the paper tickets, this is often not possible.

 

  1. The advent of digital ticketing and smartphones means there is potential to retail tickets in a way that lets more customers buy tickets where and when it suits them, and be confident they are paying the right fare. However, the inflexible nature of the current underlying fares structure and regulation limits the possibility to do this.

 

  1. Data on self-employment and part-time working is based on ONS May 2018 labour market statistics.

 

  1. Timeline of consultation process:

·        Public consultation opens – Monday 4th June

·        Public consultation closes – Monday 10th September

·        Final report – Late Autumn

 

  1. The proposed consultation is not about the overall balance between farepayers and taxpayers since this choice is rightly a matter for governments.