Train operators seek to scrap peak and off-peak rail fares

Train operators are pushing to tear up traditional rush hour ticket rules and replace them with airline-style surge pricing.

The industry wants to scrap peak and off-peak tickets and replace them with “demand-led pricing” for longer journeys, mirroring tactics used by airlines and Uber.

“We would like to see dynamic pricing,” said Andy Bagnall, the chief executive of the new train operator body Rail Partners.

Mr Bagnall said train operators were lobbying for “a more demand-led pricing approach that actually allows you to give better value tickets, but give a better customer experience.”

He said: “You don’t have that awful first train after the peak ends [experience]which has three times as many passengers [because] everyone’s been waiting for the first train because of that cliff edge.”

Sweeping reforms to ticketing are just a range of ideas being discussed with the Government.

“[Customers] they need a much simpler interface so that they can have confidence they are getting the best fare to meet their needs,” said Mr Bagnall.

“[Customers want] an industry guarantee that when you sell me the ticket, that does what I want it to do, that will be the best possible price I can get irregardless of where I go.”

He dismissed the need to reduce the estimated 55 million ticket types on Britain’s railways.

“What people care about is not the complexity under the bonnet. It’s not a case of: do we want to bring it down from 55 million to 25 million or five million [fare types].”

Rail Partners is pushing for the private sector to play a greater role in the country’s train network under changes announced by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, more than a year ago.

Rail Partners’ predecessor body, the Rail Delivery Group, was previously criticized for having to serve the needs of state-owned company Network Rail as well as train operators whose priorities regularly conflicted.

A central plank of Mr Shapps’ reforms was Great British Railways, a new public sector body that would bring tracks and trains together for the first time.

Mr Bagnall warned that if this led to greater involvement in the train network by state, the industry’s future was doomed.

“We believe that the railway is at a fork in the tracks,” he said. “If we make the right choices, if we harness the train companies to respond to customer needs, [we can] attract customers back.

“On the other hand, [if] we take the wrong track and the wrong decisions are made — we will build an over centralized railway under Great British Railways with the role of operators unduly constrained… We will ultimately see a railway with lower passenger numbers, lower revenues, [and] probably leading to further service reductions.”

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