Transport Committee Press Notice



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.

The witnesses will be as follows:

Wednesday 23 November 2005

at 2.45 pm     RMT and Transport 2000

at 3.30 pm     Rail Passengers’ Council, East Midlands Passenger Transport Users Forum and London TravelWatch

at 4.15 pm    Office of Rail Regulation and Network Rail

Wednesday 30 November 2005

at 2.45 pm    Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), Virgin Trains and GNER

at 3.30 pm    Derek Twigg MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport

 The evidence sessions will take place in public, unless otherwise decided by the Committee. Because the meetings may be moved from the Palace of Westminster to Portcullis House, those wishing to attend the meetings should check the venue by contacting the Committee Office Information Line on 020 7219 2033 on the day before the hearings.

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Press Notice   12/2005-06   31 October 2005

Dr John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee