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 20 years. Rail is also getting more goods to market, taking lorries off the roads. The nation has shared in the proceeds of this growth with the railway’s running costs going from £2bn in the red to £200m in the black, freeing up taxpayers’ money to grow the network or invest in other vital public services.

While further improvement is always needed, services are far better than they were 20 years ago. Local communities are enjoying over 600 revitalised stations. We are running 4,000 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 – like renovating your home while you’re still living in it.

This 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.

It is now increasingly clear that the status quo is not an option. That’s why we’re delivering long-term plans to change and improve the railway today – another 6,400 additional services. 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 We’re pushing for root and branch reform of the rail fares system – developing proposals for government to overhaul outdated regulations so that our customers have an easier-to-use range of fares to choose from.

And we called for and support the government’s on-going rail review, led by Keith Williams.

We will be bringing forward bold proposals of our own to overhaul the entire railway system. We believe the partnership approach – public and private working together – is right, but we need to structure that relationship to truly unlock the best of both parts.

Against this backdrop we are letting people know how much their journey will cost next year. Paying more to travel is never welcomed, especially by people who have suffered delays and disruption. So, it’s more important than ever that people understand why fares change and how we are spending their money.

Find out more

Easier fares
Covering costs
Governments influence
Underpinning investment
Rail fares explained booklet
Need for reform
Fares FAQs

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