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'Outdated' rail ticketing system to get public consultation

Nic McBride

Nic McBride
May 8, 2018

Rail commuters will get a chance to have their say on the 'outdated' and 'complicated' ticketing system.

A public consultation will be launched to find ways of simplifying the system that currently allows 55 million different fares.


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Only one in three (34%) passengers say they are "very confident" they bought the best value ticket for their last journey, according to a survey by KPMG on behalf of the rail industry.

The current system is controlled by regulations that date back to the 1990s, which are further complicated by individual franchise agreements.

Rail News managing editor Sim Harris told LOVE SPORT Radio this morning that the system had become outdated.

“It is like a garden that has been untended for a year of two – it is completely tangled.”

Harris said he found one train journey that had 43 different single fares.

“It is wrong – it is silly.”

Harris was hopeful of seeing a smart rail card introduced, as well as a part-time season ticket.

The consultation opens on June 4, with a report expected in late autumn.

READ MORE: Biggest rail-fare rise in five years. 8 hacks to get train ticket deals 


Cheaper to buy a car than a rail ticket

Last month the unbelievable cost of rail tickets was exposed when a man bought a car, taxed and insured it and drove from London to Bristol - all for less than a return train fare.

Tom Church, 27, made the journey in an £80 Honda Civic. Including tax and petrol he spent £206.81 on the trip.

An anytime return ticket between London and Bristol could cost up to £218.10.

Scroll down to see how single fares can cost twice as much as buying split tickets.

Overdue and outdated

The consultation will be carried out by The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents private train operators and Government-owned Network Rail, in an effort to make the system fairer and easier to use.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said the industry wanted to reform "well-meaning but outdated" regulation.

"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."

Robert Nisbet, an RDG spokesman, told Sky News: "What we want is to strip back the layers of rules and regulations that have made the system complicated for so many of us.

"We want to get back to basics and find out what people's priorities are.

"The regulations were set in stone by government but they have grown like coral as more franchises are let for example, and as more train operators have offered different products to attract more people to the railways."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Fares and ticketing systems need to suit the way we travel now - there is a huge demand for smarter ticketing.

"Opening the debate on reform options is overdue."


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Split tickets v single fares

Buying split tickets can work out a lot cheaper than buying one single ticket.

The BBC worked out price differences for three trips, which all had more than 50% difference in price.


Exeter Central to Sheffield on 16 June, leaving at 8:53 BST.

Split tickets: Exeter Central to Exeter St Davids (£1.40); Exeter St Davids to Bristol Temple Meads (£14.70); Bristol Temple Meads to Cheltenham Spa (£7); Cheltenham Spa to Birmingham (£9.90); Birmingham to Derby (£6.30); Derby to Sheffield (£7.50). Total: £46.80

Advance ticket: £70.20 (50% more expensive)


Oxford to Cambridge on 23 May, leaving at 10:01

Split tickets, including advance fares: Oxford to London Paddington (£5.40); London Underground to Cambridge (£27.40). Total £32.80

Off-peak single: £55.60 (70% more expensive)


Leicester to Edinburgh on 18 May, leaving at 7.52

Split tickets, including advance fares: Leicester to Derby (£6.70); Derby to Sheffield (£8.40); Sheffield to York (£14.10); York to Darlington (£9.10); Darlington to Edinburgh (£45.10). Total £83.40

Advance ticket: £144.10 (73% more expensive)