Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 20:09 UK

Rail fares 'set to be simplified'

Passengers board train
Travellers will now choose between three ticket types

Measures to make buying rail tickets simpler and easier to understand will be introduced from next month.

The new fare categories mean rail travellers will only have to choose between three types of ticket - Advance, Off-peak and Anytime.

Train operators said the changes follow complaints of what one passenger watchdog described as a "fares jungle".

But the Campaign for Better Transport urged a fare cut to "make train travel the cheap and easy option".

The new system, being brought in by the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), will cut down on ticket structures that at present mean some train companies have as many as 12 different ticket types.


Research by passenger watchdog Passenger Focus found fewer than half of passengers either understand the ticket "jungle", or believe they can negotiate it to get best value for money.

So from 18 May, the various names for discounted tickets that are bought in advance - such as Leisure Advance, Business Advance, Value Advance and Apex - will all simply be known as Advance fares.

Then from 7 September, tickets that can be bought right up to the date and time of travel will be split into two categories - Anytime and Off-peak.

Anytime tickets can be bought up until the time of travel and used on any train without peak hour or any other restrictions.

Off-peak tickets can also be bought up until the time of travel, but will carry restrictions on the time and day of travel - current ticket types which will be re-named Off-peak tickets include Saver and Cheap Day returns.

New ticket names
Advance - discounted, advance-bought tickets
Off-peak - tickets bought up to time of travel, but with restrictions
Anytime - tickets bought up to time of travel with no restrictions

The simplification will be reflected at booking offices and on booking websites.

"This is the biggest shake-up in the fares and ticketing system for many years and we want passengers to take advantage of it and also encourage more people to take the train," said David Mapp, Atoc's commercial director.

Atoc said the new ticket structure will not result in price increases and the regulation of fares, including the 40% that are price-capped on an annual basis, is unaffected by the changes.

But the changes will mean an end to refunds on advance sales and a doubling of the fee for changes to journey times.

The Campaign for Better Transport said it welcomed the new fare structure but urged the government to reduce the cost of rail fares, particularly where last-minute journeys are concerned.

Weeks beforehand

"The real cost of rail fares has increased by 6% in the last 10 years, and government plans mean it will increase further," the campaign's executive director Stephen Joseph said.

Where the cost of last-minute travel is concerned, he went on: "Advance tickets are sometimes cheap but people can't always plan their journeys weeks beforehand.

"The government must make train travel the cheap and easy option if we're going to reduce carbon emissions from transport."

The changes were first outlined in the government's rail White Paper last year.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker said the fare overhaul was a sensible move but more clarity was needed.

"It would help everyone if train companies made their advance ticket policies public so that travellers were clear about what bargain tickets are available and when and how they can best buy them."

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