CALLS have been made for a radical overhaul of the train fares system after the biggest ever rail consultation found 80 per cent of users in the West Midlands wanted it changed.
Almost 20,000 people across the country took part in the survey, including 1,322 in the West Midlands.
Among the alterations being mooted are tickets allowing people to travel easier across trains, buses and trams and a ‘tap-in, tap-out’ pay-as-you-go fare to make tickets and costs more flexible.
Rail users nationwide would be able to take advantage of price-capped travel currently only enjoyed in London.
In the West Midlands, 88 per cent of West Midlands’ respondents wanted price-capping to be considered.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which has put forward the proposals, in partnership with watchdog Transport Focus, said it would mean savings for a lot of people and overcrowding significantly reduced on some of the busiest long-distance services.
The move has been welcomed by Mike Ponsonby, the chair of Bromsgrove Rail User Group.
He said: “The rail fares programme is badly in need of an overhaul.
“Here in the UK we have some of the most expensive tickets in Europe and some of the cheapest but you need to be a detective to find the best prices.
“I regularly spend 30 minutes or more trying to find the best rail tickets which should not be needed.
“The travelling public have demanded simpler and more transparent fares.”
The RDG is calling for preparation work to begin now with the Government and industry and passenger groups looking at regulations with a view to some trials of the system. Under the proposals, a rolling programme of reform across the UK in the next three to five years.
Britain’s rail companies are due to publish the ‘Easier Fares for All’ proposals to explain how updates to outdated regulation could deliver the transparent and simpler to understand fares system people want.
The proposals meet a commitment made by the rail industry when launching its consultation to bring forward the revenue neutral ideas, meaning there would be no change in average fares or taxpayer support.
They were built with a simple proposition at their core – customers only paid for what they needed and were always charged the best value fare.
Under a ‘single-leg’ structure already operating in the Capital, customers will be able to choose the most appropriate ticket for each leg of their journey.
Powers would be devolved to help local political leaders have more control over the transport systems in their areas.
Commuters who currently buy season tickets could save cash if they travelled fewer than five days a week or were able to travel off peak, supporting changes in working patterns. Statistics show part-time working and self-employment has increased by over a third in the last two decades.
Technology would also play a big role in the reform with more online accounts, smartcards and smartphones being used to make ticket buying simpler, so customers would be shown fares which matched their needs while screening out irrelevant choices that caused confusion.
If the proposals were developed and adopted, they could enable the rail industry to offer a ‘best fare guarantee’, so customers could be confident they always paid the lowest fare available and had the best ticket to meet their needs whenever or wherever they bought it from.
Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “The result of our nationwide consultation is clear – customers have different needs and want an easy to use range of rail fares to meet them.
“Our proposals would deliver exactly that – creating a system that better fits how people live and work today.
“Rail companies are already working together on plans for trials so people can see what our proposals could mean for them.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers want to see root and branch reform to the outdated and outmoded fares and ticketing system.
“Trials will provide reassurance and allow passengers to understand the impact of the changes.”