By Lauren Howells

The rail industry, together with independent watchdog Transport Focus, are asking passengers to have their say on the future of the rail fares system, as part of a three-month public consultation to inform proposals to bring UK rail fares and ticketing systems up to date and make things easier for customers.

Rail industry seeking ‘root and branch reform’

Last month, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) announced that the rail industry was seeking a ‘root and branch reform’ of rail fares regulation, following research by KPMG which showed that only one in three rail customers were very confident that they bought the best value ticket for their last journey. The same study showed only 29% were very satisfied with the experience of buying their ticket.

Regulations surrounding rail fares have remained unchanged since the 1990s and assume that all customers will buy their ticket from a ticket office. They set out in detail how customers must be able to buy a ticket from every one of the 2,500 stations in the UK to every other station in the country. According to the RDG, whilst further “layers of requirements” have been added through individual franchise agreements, very little has been taken away, which has resulted in around 55 million different fares. It added that the regulations had failed to keep up with the rise of smartphone technology or how people are working and travelling today

Reform has potential to “transform the buying experience for customers”

The RDG say that the reform has the potential to “transform the buying experience for customers” and would make it easier for people to be confident that they were purchasing the right ticket.

Consultation launched to improve rail fares and ticketing regulation

It confirmed that proposals from the industry aimed to be “revenue neutral”, with no change in average fares, but said that changes in specific fares would need to be “balanced out elsewhere”.

As well as passengers, the consultation will also enable businesses, stakeholders, employees and the public to have their say about what the rail fare system should look like.

Proposals informed by the consultation will be presented to the government.

Rail industry has “grasped the nettle”

Chief Executive of Transport Focus, Anthony Smith, said that the rail industry had “grasped the nettle”.

“Passengers have long told us that they want rail fares system they can trust, that offers better value for money and is more understandable. Fares and ticketing systems need to suit the way we travel now,” he added.

Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Dr Adam Marshall, described how businesspeople had told the BCC that finding the best rail fare was as difficult as “finding a needle in a haystack”.

He said that the BCC was pleased that the rail industry was “tackling the issue head-on”.

“Businesses depend on rail to meet clients and suppliers, and to ensure many of their employees can get to work. A simple to use, easier fare system is needed, both for those who use the railway on an occasional basis and those whose livelihoods depend on rail journeys each and every day. More transparent fares and rules will also help boost confidence and trust amongst businesses,” he added.

The consultation asks passengers for their views on everything from fares based on distance travelled, to fares that would cost the same at all times of day, every day of the week.

Those who want to have their say can head to