Train fares too confusing, says regulator

Office of Rail Regulation says there is much more work to be done to make ticket rules clearer and purchases easier

Train passengers are often paying over the odds because of confusing tickets and fare structures, the rail regulators has warned.

The Office of Rail Regulation said there was much more work to be done to make ticket rules clearer and purchases easier.

Its research found that the majority of passengers were not sure when off-peak travel was allowed and nearly half had bought more expensive tickets than they needed.

A total of 1,600 passengers were surveyed online and while travelling. Online, 45% said the fare system was too complicated. More than a third of passengers travelling on an advance ticket did not realise that missing their specified train would make them liable to purchase a new ticket to travel later.

The ORR chair, Anna Walker, said: “Lack of clarity or certainty that they are getting the right ticket can undermine passengers’ confidence and trust in the railways.”

She said the ORR had been working with train companies on the question of ticketing and she was pleased with the progress being made.

The transport minister Norman Baker said: “I firmly believe that buying a rail ticket should be a straightforward transaction, not an obstacle course. Passengers should be able to confidently choose from a range of fares, finding the best one for their journey without having to understand every nuance of the fares and retail structure. When people do decide to travel by rail, they want a train ticket, not a lottery ticket.”

David Sidebottom, of the rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “Passengers will welcome these findings as they corroborate much of the research we have carried out in recent years. Passengers will be pleased to see the rail industry’s attempts to dispel the haze of uncertainty that surrounds some rail ticket purchases.”

Train operators said more people were travelling by train because cheap tickets were available for those who looked. Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), said: “By providing a broad range of fares, operators have attracted record numbers of passengers to the railways. Despite tough financial times, more and more people are choosing to go by train because they are able to find a good-value ticket for their journey.

“A lot has been done to make things as straightforward as possible for passengers and we are committed to doing better. Train companies have been involved for some time now in a series of projects to improve the information they provide to passengers.”

Atoc said improvements under way included redesigning train tickets to make information clearer, cutting out jargon at ticket machines and creating “cheapest fare finders” on major ticketing websites. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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