West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper is urging residents to have their say on what they want a future fares and ticketing system to look like, as a nationwide consultation on how to deliver easier fares draws to a close.
The consultation has received almost 15,000 responses so far, after opening in June. The consultation looks at the ways in which the regulations that govern rail fares, which have remained largely unchanged since they were introduced in 1995, can be brought up to date to better reflect new smartphone technology and the way people work and travel today.
The consultation follows research by KPMG which shows that in the North West, only one in three (34%) rail customers were very confident that they bought the best value ticket for their last journey and fewer than one in three were very satisfied with the experience of buying their ticket.
With long-standing anomalies becoming locked in over the years resulting in problems for rail users there are currently around 55 million different fares. That’s why in June Britain’s rail companies, with independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus, launched the first ever public consultation for customers, businesses, passenger groups, stakeholders, employees and the public to have their say about what the fares system should look like.
The consultation closes on Monday 10 September and responses can be given at www.britainrunsonrail.co.uk/fares.
The outcomes of the consultation will feed into a final report in the autumn which will make proposals to governments with options for fares reform and how to implement them. The proposals aim to be revenue neutral overall with no change in average fares, meaning that taxpayers and passengers would not pay more towards the cost of running and improving the railway.
For proposals to be revenue neutral, any changes in specific fares would need to be balanced out elsewhere. The consultation questionnaire therefore does not advocate options but asks those responding to give their preference for a range of options, which would feed in to industry proposals and ultimately need to be considered by government.
The industry is taking steps to make fares easier for customers where it can, including cutting jargon from tickets and journey information for 500,000 routes this month, the ongoing roll-out of smart-ticketing and providing clearer information about peak and off-peak times and about how people can use their ticket.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“Commuters in West Lancashire depend on rail to get them to school, work or for days out, but getting the right ticket can be confusing, and sometimes leads to paying out more than is necessary to cover the cost of the journey, such as when travelling through different transport authority boundaries.
“I’m pleased the industry is beginning to grasp the nettle with this consultation, which will form the basis of proposals to government for how a simpler and easier to use fares system could be delivered.
“Reforming a system based on decades old regulation won’t be easy and there will ultimately be tough choices to be made, so it’s vitally important that anybody who uses the train regularly in West Lancashire has their say and makes their priorities heard before the end of the consultation.
“Much of our local rail network has underperformed in recent months in particular Northern Rail and if residents wish to express their dissatisfaction with the service they should do so, even aside from the mess caused by the May timetable changes.”
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the railway, said:
“We want to make fares simpler and easier for our customers by bringing regulation up to date so we can deliver a system which better suits how people work and travel today. To make sure we’re reflecting our customers’ priorities we really want the widest possible range of views, which is why we’d encourage as many people as possible to participate in our consultation before it closes on September 10th.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:
“The way fares and ticketing currently works isn’t fit for purpose. It leaves many passengers baffled about how to get the best value for money fare. This is the last chance for passengers to take part in the consultation and make their views clear, so that passengers get a fares system that they can trust.”