The Department of Transport are considering simplified tickets for the rail industry.
Rail Minister Norman Baker has announced plans for a pilot scheme that could see all long-distance rail tickets sold on a single-leg basis and allow passengers to more easily “mix and match” each ticket type when planning a return journey.
Currently the government regulates the price of off-peak return fares, meaning train operating companies are able to price other tickets including off-peak singles more freely. This can lead to a situation where the cost of single tickets is similar to that of returns.
By regulating off-peak singles instead, passengers would be able to choose the most appropriate ticket for each leg of their journey. It could also help tackle crowding by giving passengers more choice over which service they travel on.
At the moment there’s a vast discrepancy in ticket prices between different operators. Some, notably First Great Western change just over hald of the return price for an off-peak single. Others change virtually the same amount for a single as for a return, which make your trip a lot more expensive if your journey is more complex than a simple out-and-back return. Arriva Cross-Country, I’m looking at you.
Yes, I do know you can buy far cheaper Advance tickets, but they require committing to a specific train, and often need to be purchased weeks or even months in advance. I remember trying to plan an itinerary for a circular trip from Reading to Bristol and Derby, and Arriva’s overpriced off-peak singles made it prohibitively expensive.
As with all of these things, the Devil is in the details, and we’re not going to gain anything if it’s just a cover for a substantial hike in the price of off-peak returns.