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82% don’t get rail fares – DfT

Saturday, September 26 2009

“And do you understand the range of different ticket types available to you when travelling by train?”
understanding2Data Department for Transport

A press release from the Department for Transport landed on my desk on Thursday, Official Statistics Opinions Survey on public experiences of and attitudes towards rail travel. Such publicity material is always full of gushing statements –

Respondents were positive overall about rail services. 71% of respondents rated short distance services as good (up from 63% in 2006) and 12% as poor (down from 17% in 2006). For long distance services, 67% of respondents ranked services as good (up from 62% in 2006) and 12% as poor (down from 14% in 2006).

– and always end up in my bin! However, this time prompted by Behind The Water Tower’s sad tale of the two lasses from Poland’s Railway Museum who were stuck at King’s Cross Station. I delved deeper and looked for a question regarding how many passengers fully understand the railway fare structure. Sure enough there it was the penultimate question of the survey –

And do you understand the range of different ticket types available to you when travelling by train?

-a staggering 83% either replied “No” (63%) or said they only partly understood (19%). The most expensive fare is often seven times or more the cost of the cheapest rail journey. Understanding how to go about finding the cheapest fare is essential for those on a limited budget. While those with some understanding of both the UK’s railways and the Internet will generally do quite in the hunt for low fares, many others including the elderly and overseas visitors are gravely disadvantaged.

It is clear that the revenue model of Britain’s Train Operating Companies is based on the presumption that the majority of passengers do not understand the fare structure and will usually pay more for their tickets than they need to. What a way to run a railway!

Source: DfT – Public experiences of and attitudes towards rail travel

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