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Discounted fares on the day of travel

Nearly eight out of ten train journeys in the UK are taken on discounted tickets, with the best deals available to passengers who book in advance. Since 2010, the number of journeys taken on advance tickets has risen from 42million to 156million each year.

With discounts up to 80% off the full fare, it’s no surprise these tickets are so popular with passengers. However, life doesn’t always go to plan, from spontaneous trips to family emergencies, sometimes we all need to be flexible. That’s why, responding to their passengers, CrossCountry trains introduced advance tickets that can be bought on the same day as travel.

True to their name, CrossCountry runs long‐distance services the length of the country. With Birmingham at its heart, the network provides fast train services connecting major cities across Britain, including Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, Southampton, Cardiff and Edinburgh. The ability to book a long distance journey at short notice and at a great price was high up the list of passengers’ demands.

Trialled in 2013, and made permanent in 2015, passengers can buy an advance ticket up to ten minutes before they travel, online, on a mobile or via the call centre. Seat reservations can even be made on trains that are already en route, and even add or amend tickets and reservations up to ten minutes before travel, in case plans change. Passengers can get their ticket and seat details by text, and are ready to go.

This innovation, developed by CrossCountry in response to their customers, is being developed and adapted by other train operators. The structure of rail fares and the regulations that govern them have not changed since Parliament passed the Railways Act in 1994, when the technology that most of us have in our pockets was not even imagined.

That’s why the industry is proposing a complete reform of the fares system, allowing them to respond to what passengers have said they want, and giving them more control over when they travel and how much they pay. The CrossCountry example shows how a focus on customers and an innovative approach to technology, easy to use and understand, can be the precursor to a very different system emerging across the country. Working through the Rail Delivery Group, changes are underway to allow more Advance tickets, where they are still available, to be sold to customers right up to the point of departure.

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