Transport Committee

PRESS NOTICE

HOW FAIR ARE THE FARES? TRAIN FARES AND TICKETING

The Transport Committee has decided to launch an inquiry into the price and availability of train tickets in the UK.

Research by the RMT union in 2005 suggested that standard train tickets in the UK cost three times as much as those on comparable routes in mainland Europe.  UK train operators suggest that passengers in the UK benefit from cheaper advance purchase fares, and that these can now be cheaper in real terms than those available 10 years ago.  Fare types and names which differ between train operators can cause confusion, as can fares which differ depending on whether they are booked by phone, on the internet or in person.

Standard and discounted fare levels alone do not provide the full picture;  the availability of cheap fares is also important.  Before public holidays in 2004, some rail passengers were frustrated in their attempts to buy cheap advance purchase tickets or make seat reservations.  Train operating companies apparently did not know whether they would be able to run their trains as planned.  They suggested they received information from Network Rail about the timetable only one or two weeks in advance because of Network Rail’s schedule of engineering works.  By that time, the deadline for cheap advance purchase tickets had passed.

Under the terms of its licence, Network Rail is supposed to set its timetables at least 12 weeks in advance.  It suggested that the problems followed an unprecedented amount of work on the railways, especially on the West Coast Main Line.  Network Rail also suggested that the situation was now improving.

During the course of its inquiry the Committee will consider issues such as:

• The comparative cost of rail travel to passengers in the UK;

• The justification for the current fare and ticketing structure, and the case for reform;

• The availability of cheaper, advance purchase rail tickets; and

• The way in which Network Rail’s determination of the timetable can affect the cost of rail travel.

Interested parties are invited to submit written memoranda to the Committee before Monday 3 October 2005.

Memoranda should be a maximum of 6 A4 pages in length.

Please submit a single hard copy of your memorandum by post to the above address, and an electronic version preferably by e-mail to [email protected] or alternatively on a disk with the hard copy.  If you are unable to submit an electronic version of your memorandum, please take particular care to ensure that your submission is legible. All submissions should be final and complete; the Committee does not accept draft memoranda or subsequent amendments. Memoranda submitted to the Committee should be kept confidential until published by the Committee.

Press Notice  05/2005-06   9 August 2005

Dr John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee