A passenger who types in ‘cheap train tickets’ to any search engine will get a wide range of pages offering tips and tricks to get those prices down (including our advice of course). From where and when you buy them to where you change trains, the savvy shopper can save a lot of cash on a long-distance journey. But it shouldn’t be the case that you need this extra info to get the best value fare.
Transport Focus has long argued for a modern fares system with easy-to-understand options. The Secretary of State’s announcement this tonight of the extension of its single-leg pricing trial is a welcome step towards rail fares that are better value for money and simpler to understand.
Our research, Britain’s railway: what matters to passengers found that passengers’ top two priorities for the railway – well ahead of others – are the ‘price of train tickets offers value for money’ and ‘reliability and punctuality’. It also found that less than half of passengers think the railway currently performs well on value for money.
Single-leg pricing is one of the keys to unlocking better value travel for passengers. It is logical, transparent and easy to understand. It does away with the confusion of the 10p or £1 difference between some singles and returns.
Crucially, single-leg pricing enables passengers to pay only for the level of flexibility they need. It allows passengers to mix and match ticket types, so that they do not need to buy a fully flexible Anytime return when they plan to return during the off-peak. For example, if you’re travelling for an event, you can combine a cheaper Advance fare for the outward leg (as you know when it starts) with a more flexible ticket for the return (as they may not know when it will finish), saving money in the process.
The plan to trial ‘demand-based pricing’ on some LNER routes is a more radical step. It’s right to trial new ideas to see if they work. We will be watching closely to check that the trial does deliver better value for money tickets for passengers.