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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Train fares 'causing confusion'
Passengers buying tickets
Passengers are often confused by ticket choice
Train fares offer poor value for money and the fare structure is both complex and confusing, a report from consumer watchdog Passenger Focus has found.

Twenty years ago, there were just five different types of fare, such as the season ticket and the cheap day return.

The number of available fares has now ballooned to more than 70, a choice some travellers found "overwhelming".

The rail passenger watchdog said rail companies needed to do more to attract passengers at off-peak times.

Passengers do have ticket choice, but it also adds massive complexity to the whole system
Jane Cobbell, Passenger Focus

Major bugbear

Passenger Focus, formerly the Rail Passengers Council, said its interviews with travellers found the large number of fares led to widespread confusion.

The watchdog's analysis of fares also found that prices had been rising far faster than inflation.

One major bugbear amongst rail travellers was the anomaly of two single fares costing less than a return.

Passengers sometimes did not trust staff to give them the lowest-priced and appropriate fare for the journey.

Discontent amongst passengers over fares was highest in London, but most felt they had no other transport option than the train.

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"Passengers do have ticket choice, but it also adds massive complexity to the whole system. We would like to see much more clarity," Jane Cobbell, Pasenger Focus spokeswoman, said.

Train companies have blamed government regulation as the reason for such anomalies occurring.

In response, Passenger Focus said that the government regulated only a proportion of tickets sold and that a lot of the confusion was caused by train companies issuing their own branded tickets, with often complex terms and conditions.

Passenger Focus based conducted its research with 14 discussion groups, each containing between six and eight people.

The watchdog asked both rail users and non-users for their opinions on ticketing.

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