The first step to­wards a more sim­pli­fied tick­et­ing sys­tem

Rail (UK) - - Con­tents - Barry Doe About the author Barry Doe, Con­trib­u­tor, RAIL

Fare Dealer

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.

KIM FULL­BROOK.

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 fare­dealer@bar­ry­doe.co.uk

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