Straight answers: Buying a train ticket
What’s the difference between travelling during peak and off-peak?
Train companies have peak and off-peak fares to help reduce overcrowding on the busiest trains - lower off-peak fares encourage people to travel at quieter times of the day. The exact times vary to reflect different passenger demand on different routes.
We know that on some long-distance routes the sharp drop in price from peak to off-peak can create crowding as people wait for the first off-peak services. That’s why we’re pushing government for changes to the rules that underpin the fares system.
This would mean a smoother variation in prices across the day instead of the existing cliff-edge price drop which leads to overcrowding.
Why do prices change depending on when I book my trip?
Just like airlines and hotels, which vary prices depending on how far in advance someone books and whether they commit to a non-refundable price, train companies offer discounts for booking ahead on a specific service.
This enables people to travel who might not otherwise be able to afford to do so and it means train companies can fill seats that might otherwise be empty. This means more money for train companies to pay back to governments.
Can I get a flexible part-time season ticket?
Some train companies offer ‘carnet’ tickets – discounts for people who pay for a set number of journeys up front – and others have smartcard incentives. The rules that underpin the fares system make it hard for train companies to offer flexible part-time season tickets, however. This is because the existing fares structure is baked in by government regulations.
We want to see these rules changed and have put forward proposals to government to do this. Read the proposals.
In January this year, government announced a trial of a part-time season ticket on the Southern network. We hope this is just the start.
Will Oyster cards be rolled out nationwide?
Over half of journeys are now taken on paperless ticket types – but we know that people want it to be easier to pay for their travel with confidence that they are getting the best deal. To enable the roll out of such ‘tap in, tap out’ pay-as-you-go style systems across the country, we’ve put forward proposals to reform the entire system of rail fares.
Find out more about our Easier Fares for All proposals to change.
Why are you replacing paper tickets for ‘smart’ tickets?
Paper tickets aren’t going anywhere soon and we want to ensure everyone can buy their ticket with confidence. We are just using technology to give people more choice about how and when to buy their ticket.
The business traveller rushing for a train can buy a ticket on their smartphone while travelling to the station. The regular commuter can tap-in and tap-out with a smartcard instead of an increasingly tatty piece of paper. And someone without a smartphone or smartcard can turn up at a station can get a paper ticket.
The advantage of digital ticket types is that we can offer people more deals on fares because we know who they are, but we’re committed to a railway that is accessible to everyone.