Cheap advance rail fares could be phased out under radical industry plans to modernize the way people book train journeys.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, is calling for a digital overhaul of fares which could see passengers who buy tickets on board paying the same price as those who have booked months in advance.
At present advance tickets costing as little as £15 are available for the same journeys for which last-minute tickets can cost hundreds of pounds.
Under the plans, passengers will be given a “national travel account” letting them manage and book journeys with any rail provider through a single smartphone app. This could eventually be extended to buses and taxis, RDG said.
Journeys booked through the app will be automatically allocated the lowest available fare, mitigating the need for so-called split-ticketing, where two separate tickets to a destination are cheaper than the cost of a single fare.
The national travel accounts will also form a centralized database which allows firms to reward passengers with personalized loyalty discounts and promotions.
The shakeup, set to be the biggest change to rail fares in a generation, is designed to stop passengers getting ripped of by confusing fares, as well as the need for so-called “split-ticketing”.
Any measures will be designed to be revenue neutral with no change in average fares and no extra support from taxpayers. If more expensive fares were removed therefore, then cheaper fares would have to rise to ensure any changes remain neutral.
It comes just weeks after the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, defended train companies that charge more than £300 for last minute fares.
“It is no different on the railways to the airlines,” he said. “Walking up at the last minute on a principal business route will cost you a lot more than booking a month in advance.”
However consumer groups came out in support of ending advance tickets, arguing that the current system unfairly penalizes people who needed to make emergency journeys, for example to travel to friends or family in need.
James Daley, director at consumer campaign group Fairer Finance, said: “There will be winners and losers but the good thing is that it would stop really unfair outcomes.
“It don’t think its right that someone who book two months in advance should get a super cheap ticket when someone who has no choice but to book last minute can pay hundreds of pounds.
“Last minute tickets are also where a lot of the rip-offs happen as people choose the wrong tickets at machines.”
The RDG’s consultation, which launches on Monday, will propose a range of other ideas for simplifying train fares, including calculating prices based on the level of service received and scrapping peak time premiums.
However, Andy Wakeford, head of fares at the Rail Delivery Group, said he thought these suggestions were unlikely to be implemented
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/03/cheap-advance-rail-fares-could-way/