Rail fares: We need full and fair pricing competition

Rail prices will only start to fall in the UK if ticket sales are opened up to full and fair competition, according to UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour.

She welcomed news of a public consultation aimed at making ticketing fairer and easier to understand, but said ‘tinkering around the edges’ of the existing system would make little difference.

“It’s time for the rail industry in the UK to be run for the benefit of passengers, instead of the current fragmented system which is tailored to the needs of service operators.

“If rail ticketing was simplified and open to full and fair competition, you would soon see prices starting to fall.

“As it is right now, the system seems to be deliberately complicated so that it’s almost impossible for passengers to work out whether they are getting the best deal.”

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the UK’s rail firms, has revealed that a staggering 55 million different fares exist in the current system.

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, said: “Reform is long overdue. The industry itself admits that passengers are not always being offered the cheapest fares, but have failed to act on this for years.

“How can it possibly be right, or sensible, for it to often be cheaper for passengers to buy several tickets for a single journey than one ticket?

“Opening up the rail ticketing market to competition would soon sort out this nonsense. It’s not too much to ask for a rail fares system which people can understand, and trust.”

A consultation into rail pricing is due to begin next month, running until September. A report will then be produced with proposals for the Government to consider.

Mrs Seymour said: “Let’s take the bull by the horns and think outside the box.

“Passengers have been forced to put up with inflation-busting price rises for too many years – it’s time to put them in the driving seat for a change.”

Rules governing how tickets are sold and how fares are calculated date back to 1995, and critics say they have not kept pace with technology or the 21st century work and travel habits.

Mrs Seymour said: “Over the past two decades, individual franchises have tinkered around the edges with this system, and all it has done is create inconsistency, complexity, frustration and confusion.”