Passengers are still not being told they could get a cheaper fare at 70% of train station ticket machines, according to a progress report from the Department for Transport into promised improvements to train ticketing.
By May this year ticket vending machines were supposed to be able to warn passengers when they could bag a cheaper fare by changing the time of their ticket, for example to an off-peak journey.
But seven months after the deadline, only 30% of machines have been updated to do this – and the remainder will only be fully updated early next year.
However, other improvements proposed as part of an action plan announced in December 2016 have been successfully made, including websites warning when cheap advance tickets are running low and more train firms offering advance tickets up to 15 minutes before travel.
What was the action plan and has it worked?
The 12-month plan aimed to make buying tickets much simpler and reduce confusion for travellers, and was agreed between the Department for Transport and the various rail companies. It followed a campaign by Which?, Transport Focus and other consumer campaigners – including MoneySavingExpert.com – which focused on how you choose and buy your ticket, what you buy and where you buy it.
Here are some of the main improvements that were planned, and whether they have now been completed:
Planned train ticket improvements
|Area||What was meant to change?||Planned completion date||Progress made|
|Finding cheaper tickets||Customers to be told if they can get a cheaper ticket by changing their travel time and websites to include tools to find the cheapest fare.||May 2017||Completed|
|Railcards||On the first occasion a customer forgets their railcard, they should be able to claim back any additional costs such as a new ticket or penalty fare.||Feb 2017||Completed|
|Ticket machines||Jargon such as 'any permitted' and 'London terminals' to be removed to make ticket options clearer.||End of 2017||Delayed to 2018|
|Customers to be told if they can get a cheaper ticket by waiting for the off-peak time. Cheaper fares to be more prominent and ticket machines more consistent across the industry.||May 2017|
|On-the-day advance tickets||East Midlands, Northern, TransPennine Express, Virgin Trains East Coast and West Coast to allow customers to buy advance tickets on the day. (Previously only CrossCountry allowed this.)||Sep 2017||Completed|
|Advance ticket availability||Train companies to highlight when there are fewer than nine cheaper advance tickets left for long distance routes.||Apr 2017||Completed|
|T&Cs||Customers to get a 'plain English' description of their ticket before buying and a 'What can I do with my ticket?' tool so passengers know when and where they can use their ticket. They should also be able to see relevant T&Cs when booking, and be signposted to additional information.||Jun 2017||Completed|
|Sharing info with third parties||More data to be made available to third parties, eg, Citymapper, in the hope new apps and tools will be developed to help passengers.||Dec 2017||Completed|
|Train company websites||To be reviewed to ensure they meet the industry's code of practice, and monitored to ensure they maintain standards.||Mar 2017||Completed|
|Accessibility||The Disabled Person's Transport Advisory Committee to work with the industry to help improve the experience for disabled and vulnerable passengers and raise awareness of passenger rights.||Dec 2017||Completed|
Rail minister: Ticket buying can 'leave people scratching their heads'
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: "Our aim was to make it easier for passengers to find the best value fares, offer greater flexibility when travelling and remove the complexity from the whole ticket buying process, which can sometimes leave people scratching their heads.
"Working with the train companies and consumer groups has helped us make some really positive changes, and work will continue into the New Year to improve ticket vending machines and bring forward fare pilots, to ensure buying the right ticket is simple, easy and straightforward."
Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Passengers will be pleased to see the progress made so far, including advance fares now available on the day of travel, and more discretion shown when railcards have been forgotten. We now look forward to seeing further wins for passengers from wider reform of the complicated issues."