UK: The government should ‘grasp the nettle’ on fare reform and set out a strategy to ensure that Great British Railways is clear about its future objectives, the House of Lords’ cross-party Built Environment Committee has concluded following its inquiry into the ticket reforms proposed in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.

The committee has written to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris making a number of recommendations.

Fare simplification

The committee says the government should develop a clear vision for a simpler fare structure before GBR is introduced in 2023.

It should be clear what the early wins will be, for example through the reform of ticket types and the prioritisation of digitisation, to help build public trust and stimulate modal shift.


The committee says the government needs to develop a plan to ensure that contactless payment is available at all stations in 2023.

It says government should prioritise digitisation, moving away from paper tickets to QR codes, while continuing to provide access to paper tickets for those unable to access smart technologies.

Wi-fi, phone and data connectivity on the network should be improved so that passengers can work and buy tickets on the go.

Ticket types

The committee says different approaches are needed for short distance and long-distance ticketing. For commuters, single-leg pricing and contactless may generate more demand. For long-distance travellers, dynamic pricing may help to spread demand.

The government should consider options for implementing single-leg pricing on shorter routes and in commuter areas to deliver better value for people who wish to make a single journey and to facilitate the expansion of contactless payment.

The government should consider how to increase the use of advance tickets for longer journeys to help increase non-peak revenues. It should consider adopting dynamic pricing for advance fares, as used by airlines, and consider how to address split ticketing which ‘undermines trust in the system’.

The committee says the new flexi-season tickets are not satisfactory, and the government should improve the scheme.

Promoting competition

The committee says there is an important role for a diverse range of ticketing retailers, which can help encourage innovation, and the government must ensure that all retailers operate on fair commercial terms with GBR.

The government should clarify the future interaction between GBR and open access operators.

Fare rises

The committee says the government should announce the regulated rail fare increases for 2022 ‘as a matter of urgency’, and be clear about when it will meet its ambition to replace RPI with CPI as the basis to calculate fare rises.

‘A unique opportunity’

‘To encourage passengers to return to the railways after the pandemic and meet the important commitments set at COP26 this week, it will be essential to improve the consumer experience for rail passengers and simplify fares’, said Chair Baroness Neville-Rolf on November 5.

She said the launch of Great British Railways in 2023 provides a unique opportunity to clarify fares and reduce confusion, and ‘early wins’ could include ‘reform of ticket types, digitalisation and improving the underwhelming new flexible season tickets currently on offer’.

Following the publication of the recommendations, a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said ‘train operators want to work with government to deliver reforms that will make fares easier for passengers and now is the best opportunity in a generation to get this right. Recently announced funding in the budget will bring the benefits of pay as you go travel to more people outside of London but wholesale reform of fares regulation is needed to unlock the full benefits across the country.’