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Easier fares for all - the rail industry's proposal for a fair, efficient, and modern system of tickets and fares.

Rail industry

What we are proposing?

The rail industry is proposing a root-and-branch reform of the current system of fares and tickets. With regulatory changes we can deliver what customers have told us they want: an up-to-date, easier to use system where they have more control over when they travel and how much they pay.

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Help us bring about easier fares for all, join our calls to government for change

The industry committed, with the support of government, to deliver simpler ticketing as part of our long term plan to change and improve - In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity, read more.

What did people tell us?

What did people tell us?

The rail industry, in partnership with passenger watchdog Transport Focus, conducted a major listening exercise on fare regulations which received nearly 20,000 responses.

We also met with representatives from organisations across the length and breadth of the country, including passenger groups, business groups, accessibility groups and local authorities, to hear what their priorities were for reforming fares. This was backed up by economic analysis and commercial modelling by consultants KPMG.

Easier fares

How do we get there?

The research clearly showed that while customers don’t seek a simple, one-size-fits all fares approach, they do want fares that reflect their needs, and which are simple to use.

They told us they wanted: value-for money and flexibility; an easy to understand offer; tickets which are easy to buy; greater personalisation; protections maintained and redress if things go wrong; a system which reflects national and local needs; and, a sense of trust and confidence in the tickets they’re buying.

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We just need a simple, easy to understand fare system.
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Consultation respondent - Leisure traveller
Female, 65-69, North West

easier fares

Based on what we have learned, we have arrived at proposals with a simple proposition at their core: that customers should only pay for the travel they need and the system is designed to give them the best value fare. To deliver this, we are proposing a two stage approach to reform, underpinned by commercial trials which would give customers more opportunity for engagement with the proposed changes:

Stage One
Industry and government work together to reform the way that fares are worked out. This means government replacing the outdated Ticketing and Settlement Agreement (TSA) with a new set of system regulations.

Stage Two
With these new system regulations in place commercial changes will then need to be agreed with operators, reflected in new pricing regulations written in to their government contracts.

These changes would enable


The ‘unbundling’ of fares, through a move to a single fare as the basic unit of all pricing in the new system, with algorithmic rules underpinned by regulation to allow and encourage the best combinations of single leg fares for return, through (allowing travel from any point on the network to another regardless of operator) and multi-journey tickets. This is similar to the way fares are currently structured within London, which has its own rules distinct from the rest of the network.


Train companies to be able to create discounted, premium, train specific and personalised variations of these fares, for example, charging less at quieter periods, more for first class, less for reduced flexibility, and so on. This ensures that fares are priced appropriately to market and are not simply the sum of their parts.


Protection from excessive fares through regulation of price levels rather than of a limited number of specific fares types that may not reflect customers’ needs. For example, moving from regulating the day return and 7-day Season Ticket for commuters, to regulating the maximum price paid when travelling over the course of a week - with systems programmed to deliver this automatically.

These changes would also enable local political leaders across the country to have more control over their local and regional transport systems where the decision has been taken (or is taken in the future) to devolve the relevant powers and responsibility. These reforms would increase their ability to coordinate train fares alongside other local transport in and around their cities. This is currently difficult even where those powers are already devolved, because rail-only fares are set under different national rules to local travel schemes.

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The most important thing when buying a ticket is for it to be easy to buy the cheapest ticket available for the journey you want to make.
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Consultation respondent - Commuter
Female, 45-54, East of England

Consultation respondent Commuter Female 45-54 East of England

Next steps

We want to work with government to begin reforming regulation and set-up a series of real-world trials over the next year to further test and refine how the propositions would work in practice. Commercial contracts would then need to be revised and agreed, starting a programme of reform which, with all parties working together, has the potential to be rolled out operator by operator across the network over the next 3-5 years.

Reforming the system of fares and tickets will make fares simpler to understand, and easier to buy, while offering better value-for money.

Customer benefits from fares reform would include:

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A simplified buying process - so people could buy from an easy to understand range of tickets online and on smart devices, or use pay-as-you-go.

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Tickets that better reflect modern ways of working – new types of ticketing could encourage more Off-Peak travel by providing alternatives to paying up front for unlimited travel.

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Customers having control over the journeys that they pay for - customers would be able to mix and match their requirements from basic single fares and get the best price.

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Easy change of plans - if customers want to change their choice, they could see immediately what their options are, how much it would cost, and they could make the change straightaway.

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Hassle-free refunds - if a ticket is refundable and customer was entitled to their money back, they could sort it easily and quickly. This includes the possibility of automating Delay Repay payments where this is specified in contracts.

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Good deals for everyone’s travel needs - our changes would enable a better range of cheaper fares to become available, including enhanced availability of affordable on the day walk-up fares.

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Being able to trust their ticket – wherever a ticket is bought the system would incorporate discounts and maximum fare caps, so the customer would know they have the right ticket for their exact journey, at the best available price, every time.

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No need to ‘split tickets’ – people would automatically be offered the best combination of tickets for their journey therefore paying the lowest price for their needs.

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Best Fare Guarantee - Where reform is fully implemented, and fares modernised the rail industry would stand behind this with a Best Fare Guarantee, ensuring that customers pay the cheapest fare that meets their requirements.

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