Rail fares explained

The railway plays a vital role in the daily lives of millions of people across Britain and forms the backbone of our economy.

Behind this public service is a partnership between the public and private sectors, working together to change and improve. After decades of decline before the 1990s, passenger journeys have doubled in the last 25 years. Rail is also getting more goods to market, taking lorries off the roads and reducing traffic congestion. The nation has shared in the proceeds of this growth with the subsidy required to run the railway day to day reduced by £1.5 billion, freeing up taxpayers’ money to grow the network or invest in other vital public services.

While further improvement will always be needed, services are far better than they were 25 years ago. Local communities are enjoying over 600 revitalised stations. We are running 4,400 more trains every day – an increase of almost a third.

But the current system is under severe strain. Partly due to the successes in increasing services and boosting passenger numbers, we now have one of the most congested railways in Europe. The smallest delay can have a huge ripple effect. At the same time, we’ve been rebuilding the network to reduce congestion and create the space to run even more services. It’s necessary but disruptive work – a bit like renovating your home while you’re still living in it.

Last summer’s ambitious but ultimately disruptive timetable change is an example. Almost half of all train times changed as we tried to deliver a step-change in service. But the sheer scale and complexity of the change, with multiple moving parts, meant the system didn’t cope. Rail companies working together have learnt from this and have successfully introduced an additional 1,000 services a week since May 2019.

We're delivering a long-term plan to change and improve the railway today:

  • 6,400 additional services a week
  • over 7,000 new carriages by 2021
  • hundreds more trains refurbished like new

all delivering extra journey choices, more frequent services and more space on trains.

But we want to go further. We have published proposals for root and branch reform of the rail fares system, which would involve overhauling outdated regulations so that our customers have an easier-to-understand range of fares to choose from.

And we published our proposals to the government's on-going rail review. led by Keith Williams.

Against this backdrop, we are letting people know how much their journey will cost next year. Paying more to travel is never welcomed. So it's more important than even that people understand why fares change and how we are spending their money.

Download Rail Fares Explained.

Find out more

Easier fares
Underpinning investment
Fares FAQs
Government influence
Need for reform
Rail fares explained booklet

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