Rail industry cuts jargon to ensure customers pay the right fare
The rail industry is making language clearer for half a million routes this September as part of its plan to change and improve the fares system, as customers say getting the right ticket can be confusing.
Train companies are cutting jargon from tickets and journey information for 500,000 routes this September, as part of its commitment to increase customer satisfaction by delivering simpler ticketing. This is part of the industry’s aim to eliminate 1.6 million instances of potentially misleading jargon within the next couple of years.
Recent KPMG research found that a fifth (22%) of people do not think it is easy to understand what type of ticket they need to buy for their journey and a third (34%) do not trust that they are always getting the best deal available.
The rail industry is working hard to bring more clarity. The latest changes mean that in total since February 2017, all 14,000 uses of ‘Route Direct’ and over 670,000 (13%) uses of ‘Any Permitted’ will be removed where there is only one way to travel or replaced with the name of a major station the train passes through or where the customer must change train. Rail companies are also changing ‘London Terminals’ to specify the single London station the fare is valid to on the ticket, or when it is valid to multiple stations, they are providing supporting data online.
As a result, 91% of passengers using ticket vending machines are now buying the most appropriate ticket for their journey, an improvement of 11% since last year according to an ORR mystery shopping investigation published in July. If customers do purchase the wrong ticket through a ticket vending machine and have paid too much, all 17 train companies now have a price guarantee in place and will refund the additional cost.
Changes to ticket wording are part of steps the industry is taking to make fares easier for customers, including the ongoing roll-out of smart-ticketing and providing clearer information about peak and off-peak times and about how people can use their ticket.
However, to improve and simplify the types of fares available, modernise ticketing systems and develop fare structures to suit the way people work and travel today, decades old regulation will need to be brought up to date. That’s why the Rail Delivery Group joined forces in June with transport user watchdog Transport Focus to launch a consultation to find out what passengers want to see from any effort to drive ‘root and branch reform’ of the system.
Jason Webb, Deputy Managing Director of Customer Portfolio at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said:
“We know it can be confusing to buy a ticket on the train and that the outdated jargon unique to rail like ‘London Terminals’ or ‘Any Permitted’ is part of the problem. We are making huge efforts as an industry to make this easier where we can, but to really make fares simpler to understand we need regulatory change. That’s why we’re running a consultation and asking customers to have their say on what they want from the future fares system.”
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:
“Rail passengers find fares and ticketing complex and confusing. Action to remove jargon is a significant step towards a fares system that passengers find easy to use.
“However, over the longer term some more fundamental reforms are still needed if train companies are ever going to enjoy the trust of the travelling public. The current consultation will make sure passengers’ views are heard as the industry works to reform its complicated fares system.”
Notes to editors
- The following phrasing is changing (previous language refers to before the Fares Forum Action plan, which commenced in February 2017 – changes have been made at various points up until now):
Previous language New language/information ‘Route Direct’ • Blank if the journey follows a direct route, with no changes – e.g. Manchester Airport to Heald Green
• ‘Via …’ specifying the station if there is a change on the route or the service passes through a major station – e.g. Inverkeithing to Gleneagles via Kirkcaldy
‘Any Permitted’ • Blank if the journey follows a direct route, with no changes – e.g. Boston to Skegness
• ‘Via …’ specifying the station if there is a change on the route or the service passes through a major station – e.g. Morpeth to Durham via Newcastle
• If customers can travel via multiple routes, information will be provided on the National Rail website to define which – e.g. Norwich to Sheffield
‘London Terminals' • Where the ticket is valid at one specific station, it will say so on the ticket – e.g. Maidenhead to London Paddington
• If customers can travel to multiple stations, information will be provided on the National Rail website and train company websites to define which – e.g. Basildon to London Terminals allows travel to London Liverpool Street and London Fenchurch Street
- The ORR published ‘Measuring Up’ Annual Rail Consumer Report 2018 in July.
- Consultation responses can be given by visiting www.britainrunsonrail.co.uk/fares. The hashtag for the consultation is #easierfares.
Timeline of consultation process:
- Public consultation opens – 4 June
- Public consultation closes – Monday 10 September
- Final report – Late autumn
The proposed consultation is not about the overall balance between farepayers and taxpayers since this choice is rightly a matter for governments.
- Last October, the partnership railway of the public and private sectors published a long-term plan for change – In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity. It included a commitment to increase customer satisfaction by developing practical proposals for the reform of fares.