Rail passengers could pay more for rush-hour travel in shake-up

Rail passengers could fork out even more for “high-peak” fares at the heart of the rush-hour under Government proposals.

While some travellers could be rewarded for avoiding the peak times, others could pay more in order to “smooth demand” at the busiest times.

But the “high-peak” fare would have to be considered “very carefully”, according to the wording of a rail consultation paper on fares and ticketing. The consultation also suggested possible changes rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus said could lead to travellers not being able to buy turn-up-and-go tickets.

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The consultation was part of a rail command paper on rail reform published yesterday by Transport Secretary Justine Greening yesterday in response to a Whitehall-commissioned rail report on cost-cutting by Sir Roy McNulty.

“Part of the consultation is about asking everybody how we can manage demand better,” she said, adding: “We want fares to remain affordable. There may be some ability to incentivise people to travel off-peak.”

But Labour, transport unions and passenger groups immediately expressed concern at any possible fare rises and also at proposals that could see hundreds of ticket offices closed.

“Let’s try to tempt passengers away from peak-time travel, rather than penalise them for doing so,” said Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith.

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Ms Greening outlined billions of pounds worth of savings that would be made over the next few years so that above-inflation fare rises for season ticket holders would be ended.

Smart ticketing technology across England and Wales allowing passengers to enjoy Oyster-style tickets, would be rolled out and the paper also explores the possibility of cheaper season tickets for those who do not work a full week, But just how, and when, changes to fares and the way they are bought will pan out will not be known until the end of the consultation on fares and ticketing.