Buying rail tickets online needs to be simpler, Watchdog says

Passenger Focus has today published research looking at how easy passengers find buying their train tickets online.

The research found many examples of good practice but also a misplaced confidence from some passengers, who may be paying too much when they shop online.

The watchdog has recommended that the rail industry does more to help passengers make the right choice for them, in particular:

  • Taking action to prevent people buying more expensive tickets than necessary and;
  • Combating the complex fares structure, confusing terminology and use of jargon.

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said:

“Companies that use websites to sell train tickets must do more to make sure passengers do not overpay. It is too easy to pay over the odds simply through lack of familiarity with the fares system and its bewildering jargon.

“Making sure that passengers are not overcharged when they buy online may help improve passengers’ perception of fares and value for money on Britain’s railways. As more and more tickets are sold online it is vital this is got right.”

The research looked at a range of websites that sell train tickets and has recommended action to:

  • Ensure greater clarity about which tickets are for one train only, and which can be used on whichever train you wish
  • Ensure time of day restrictions associated with a ticket can be checked easily
  • Ensure that the ‘permitted routes’ that can be used between A and B can be checked easily
  • Tackle jargon that is confusing to passengers
  • Implement a range of functionality improvements that will make it easier for passengers to buy tickets online.

The research builds on Passenger Focus’s study of how easy passengers find it to use Ticket Vending Machines at stations, undertaken in 2010.

That research also led to recommendations about helping passengers chose the right ticket for their journey.

Passenger Focus will use these research findings in discussions with the rail and online retailing industries, as well as to Government and regulators, to improve ticket retailing for passengers.

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