Last week Industry body The Rail Delivery Group and Government body The Office of Rail and Road published a ‘Code of Practice on retail information for rail tickets and services.’
Sadly this isn't the long awaited ‘Rail Fares Code of Conduct’ for passengers that was promised by Rail Minister Claire Perry and the Rail Industry after she called a summit of industry chiefs in December 2014, following embarrassing reports in the Daily Telegraph that passengers were being routinely denied the cheapest tickets. This is in fact a ‘Rail ticketing code of practice’ written for the rail by the rail industry. at 22 pages long, it is now clear that more than ever we need a 'Passengers Rail Fares Code of Conduct' that clearly states what requirements the rail industry must adhere to when selling tickets at vending machines or ticket offices.
This code of practice appearing now is also particularly surprising as the last we had heard about the prospects of seeing anything was in January when a Freedom Of Information request was issued to the Department for Transport and the response denied all knowledge of any rail fares code of conduct, any discussions or agreement to produce one at the aforementioned rail summit, despite this being covered in every news report at the time.
So what does this code of practice mean for passengers? well not much as far as we can see. The key development is that apparently from 1 April 2015 there will be a 'gradual roll out of a programme of improvements' and passengers should be told that they ‘may be able to buy a cheaper ticket elsewhere’, when buying from Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs). There are still lots of unanswered questions that this code of practice does not address and the rail industry and Government need to answer, such as:
- How will passengers be notified that they can get a cheaper fare elsewhere?
- What exactly will this message say?
- Will all ticket vending machines have to display this message? And if so by when?
- Why are train operators still allowed to deny passengers the cheapest fares?
What passengers really want is the trust in the rail industry that they will always be sold the cheapest available fare for their journey. If third party ticket retailers like Money Saving Expert’s Tickety Split and Rail Easy’s Train split can come up with the complex algorithms needed to offer people the cheapest tickets for a journey, then quite simply, so can the rail industry.
The Office for Rail Regulation has gone to great lengths to explain how complicated it is to buy a ticket by creating a series of slightly excrutiating videos to simplify things for passengers.
We will be out at some of London’s busiest stations this week to see what has changed. But we also need your help. If you see any ticket machines with or without the mysterious message informing you that you might be able to buy a cheaper train ticket elsewhere, let us know! Please take a photo of the message and tell us the location and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @FairFaresNow.