"We want to work in partnership to drive root and branch reform of well-meaning but out-dated fares regulation."
The UK rail industry’s fare structure needs to be more transparent and predictable, integrated properly with other forms of transport and should also offer more personalised options that work alongside modern technology and working practices. Those are just some of the principles that the organisation representing UK rail operators, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), has said are needed to form the framework of a fare structure that is “fit for the future” and which better serves the passengers using it.
The guidelines came following the first of two public consultations by KPMG that laid bare the lack of confidence that exists among some passengers. In the first consultation, KPMG said that just 34% of those passengers polled were confident they’d bought the best value ticket, with only 29% satisfied with the experience of buying their ticket.
The RDG has commissioned KPMG to complete another consultation and have asked the auditing company to include principles that offer a system that enables “growth, innovation, efficiency and choice” and which provides funding for investment and avoids the need for further taxpayer subsidy. According to the Office of Rail and Road, the UK economic regulator for rail, the UK government provided the rail industry with £4.2bn of funding in 2016/17, down from a peak of around £8bn in 2005/06.
On the restructuring of the UK rail fare’s structure, the RDG said the industry as a whole was looking for a total overhaul of a system that was no longer fit for purpose and which was saddled with long-standing anomalies left over from past franchise agreements. “As part of the industry’s plan for change, we want to work in partnership to drive root and branch reform of well-meaning but out-dated fares regulation,” said Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, who added he wanted to enhance trust in the system.
“Unpicking the regulation of a £10bn-a-year fares system that underpins such a vital public service means there are no quick-and-easy solutions. The change that’s needed won’t be easy and 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,” he said.
One of the key areas where the industry has failed to keep up with the modern world in terms of ticketing is the very different ways in which the public now works, with a great many more working from home or on part-time or zero hours contracts. A change recognised by Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, the independent watchdog that is also included in the ticketing overhaul, who said: “Rail passengers want a simpler, more understandable and modern fares system which matches the way we now travel. Opening up the debate and looking at the pros and cons of various reform options is welcome.”
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