The first step towards a more simplified ticketing system
RAIL fares expert Barry Doe identifies the first step towards a more simplified ticketing system.
FROM emails I received, I know that many readers were alarmed at statements which appeared in newspapers during the first weekend in August, saying that wording on tickets is to be simplified in September. Unfortunately, these were also repeated in
RAIL 860. It was this phrase, which appeared in a press release from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), that caused the alarm: “Rail companies are changing London Terminals to specify the single London station the fare is valid to on the ticket… when it is valid to multiple stations they are providing supporting data online.”
I lived in Wimbledon in 1968, when British Rail abolished named stations and moved to ‘London SR’ (Southern Region). It added flexibility and really did simplify the system, as previously Wimbledon had separate fares to Charing Cross, London Bridge, Cannon Street and so on. All were replaced by one fare to ‘London SR’ - and at the Waterloo price, so nobody paid more.
As time went on ‘London BR’ was used all round the capital to show similar options, later changed to ‘ London Terminals’. While I imagined the September changes would mean tickets from Bournemouth (for example) would still retain that flexibility, if they were now to show only Waterloo, with people having to look online to check other stations they could use, new travellers would not know this and think validity was indeed only to Waterloo.
They might therefore arrive there and buy another ticket to London Bridge, just as they would with the Tube, without ever knowing their rights.
So, horrified of this regressive step after 50 years, I emailed my senior fares contact at the RDG. And to my relief, I received an immediate phone call allaying my fears. Put simply, the press release was ambiguous and the outcome is not at all as implied. That was refreshingly honest - but then I have come to expect high standards from the RDG.
A meeting was arranged with the person who is looking after the project, at which I gained a great deal of information, for which I was most grateful.
Firstly, whatever changes are made in what appears on tickets, nothing whatever is changing in terms of current rights. All permitted routes will remain and tickets will continue to be valid to all the stations they always have been - whether in London or to other groups (such as Manchester, giving access to Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria, Oxford Road and Deansgate).
There are just over five million ‘ any permitted route’ flows on the National Rail fares database. A ‘flow’ is all fares from A to B. ‘B to A’ is a separate flow.
These range from a tiny number of flows where there are just two fares (a Standard Anytime Day Single and Anytime Day Return) to the more common longer journeys where there might typically be around ten fares (Anytime, Off-Peak, Super OP singles and returns for Standard and First Class). So, a total of perhaps 40 million ‘any permitted’ prices nationally.
Compared with January 2017, when some simplification commenced, by this September 700,000 of these will have been changed - 12.6% of the original total, in fact.
Now, this does not mean that any fare will lose its route status. It’s just that many fares show ‘any permitted route’ where there is only one route, causing confusion for some customers who clearly wonder what it means.
In my area, Bournemouth to Poole is an example of an ‘any permitted’ flow! The phrase will be removed. Nothing will replace it (except common sense?), although in a few cases where it is perceived it might help, a major named station en route might be used instead, as a “via”. All these changes were individually examined and agreed by Transport Focus.
Secondly, to London Terminals. There are two different types of case where it will be
removed. The first is for those (very few) journeys where there is no choice. For example, next year Battersea Park will show Victoria instead, as it’s the only station to which it is valid.
In the second type, London Terminals will be replaced by just two stations if that is clearer. For example, Basildon on the c2c network, where London tickets are valid only to Fenchurch Street or Liverpool Street, will change to say so - although the changes won’t happen immediately on this line.
I do appreciate how some people can be confused over London Terminals, in the sense of thinking a ticket from Haywards Heath is valid to Euston using the Tube from Victoria, for example.
I have suggested to the RDG that where applicable, tickets to London should have the phrase “not valid on London Underground” added for clarity.
Of course, that couldn’t happen on some flows where there is totally interavailability with the Tube, such as from Aylesbury using the ‘Met’ to Baker Street, but in most cases it could.
Similarly, the Maltese Cross, indicating a ticket IS valid on cross-London journeys on the Tube across London between termini, could be replaced with a phrase saying just that.
Other problems loom that should have been sorted by now. What’s to be the status of Crossrail? Will a London Terminals ticket from Maidenhead be valid to Liverpool Street? And if not, what happens? That’s something which I’m told will be known fairly soon.
Of course, all this is only a start to fares simplification. If BR had not been abolished we’d have had a single-leg ticketing system introduced some years back. Privatisation, as with most things, has simply slowed progress down and made it harder to achieve.
If we can get to that, it will transform ticketbuying and really make the system user-friendly, but that’s for another time. For now, this step merely aids clarity without reducing any benefits.
Request Stop Map
Geoff Marshall, one half of the ‘All the Stations’ duo ( RAIL 834), has produced an excellent new map showing all 138 of Britain’s National Rail request stops.
It can be downloaded from www. geofftech.co.uk/download/RequestStops.pdf and is up-to-date - since, for example, the changes for Perranwell and Corrour, which resulted in their becoming compulsory stops earlier this year.
There is an interesting table on the map showing the most and least-used of the 138 stops (ten in each category), with figures taken from the 2016-17 Office of Rail and Road official statistics.
What perhaps really surprises is how busy some of the top ten actually are. They all get over 20,000 users a year and the busiest, Conwy, almost 49,000. Is it perhaps time some operators looked more closely at usage, to establish if some should be made normal stops?
Nearby Deganwy is an example. It’s so close to Llandudno (4 mins) that unless the guard can ask everyone before departure so the driver can be told, the train has to call in case anyone wants to alight.
Producing the public timetable can be awkward if request stops are together, with times differing from the Working Timetables to ensure trains don’t pass the last stop early when they haven’t called at the earlier ones.
Yes, not stopping saves money, but nothing like the inflated examples I’ve seen for supposed ‘brake wear’. Anyway, I’m sure readers will find this map of great interest.
TfL Rail 345022 runs through Brentwood Bank, bound for Shenfield, with a train from London Liverpool Street. Ticket terminology is being simplified, although problems loom on the horizon when Crossrail opens.
Barry Doe has a bus & rail timetable web site at www.barrydoe.co.uk which also contains his rail franchise map for downloading. Contact him at email@example.com