Monday 18 February 2019 8:20 am

Peak fares face the axe in proposed shakeup of rail ticketing system

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Peak rail fares could be abolished under new proposals to move away from the UK's complex ticketing system to a fairer, "tap-in, tap out" model.

Trade body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has called for a revamp of the ticket system to ensure customers only pay for what they need and are always charged the best-value fare.

The report, which forms part of the ongoing Williams rail review, recommends the roll-out of a "tap-in, tap-out" system across the rail network, allowing all commuters to benefit from the weekly capping system currently available for journeys in London.

The system would provide savings for commuters working flexibly and travelling during off-peak hours, while overcrowding could be reduced by up to a third on busy long-distance services, the RDG said.

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The proposals, which follow a consultation of nearly 20,000 people from across the UK, will create a so-called best fare guarantee, ensuring customers always pay the lowest fare available.

The overhaul would see wider use of electronic or smart tickets in a bid to make it simpler to buy tickets and to improve transparency. In addition, the RDG said the reform would give greater local control over fares in devolved areas.

The consultation, carried out with passenger watchdog Transport Focus, found eight in 10 people want the current system overhauled, with 90 per cent calling for increased use of digital ticketing.

The RDG called on government, industry and passenger groups to begin work on the proposals immediately, with plans to roll out a programme of reforms over the next three to five years.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said the research showed that "the time for piecemeal change has gone".

"Britain’s outdated and outmoded fares and ticketing system must be overhauled.

“Many of the changes in the rail industry’s proposal are sensible and long overdue: single journey-based pricing will simplify and make the system easier to explain. Pay-as-you-go pricing and a ‘tap-in tap-out’ system could make rail more attractive by supporting a fares system that will better match the way that people want to work and travel more flexibly.”

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Chair of the Transport Select Committee Lilian Greenwood added: "The call for fairer fares has only become louder and more insistent after a year in which many passengers experienced appalling levels of disruption and promised improvements to services have been delayed or cancelled.

“The Rail Delivery Group’s proposition to the Williams Review that passengers only pay for what they need, are always charged the best value fare, can use smart tickets and season tickets that suit today’s working patterns all make complete sense to us, and are welcome recognition that things need to change."