WALLET-BUSTING train journeys could be a thing of the past after it was announced rail fares will undergo a massive overhaul.
The Echo previously reported how train operators were accused of overcharging passengers by “hiding” the cheapest fares for many routes.
Commuters travelling from Southampton and elsewhere could make substantial savings by “split-ticketing” – buying a different ticket for each leg of their journey instead of paying for a single through ticket.
Now new measures to be trialled will see fares for long connecting journeys removed from the system where cheaper alternatives exist.
Single journey pricing will be introduced for some routes to make it simpler for passengers to know if they would be better off buying two single tickets or a return.
There are also plans to make ticket vending machines more user-friendly.
The new system is set to be trialled on selected routes from May this year, including CrossCountry, Virgin Trains’ east and west coast services and East Midlands.
Jacqueline Starr, Rail Delivery Group’s director of customer experience, said: “We know customers can find it hard to get the right ticket for their journey due to complex rules and regulations built up by governments over decades.
“There are more than 16 million different train fares, many of which nobody has ever bought.
“This also makes it more difficult to give passengers the right, simple options on ticket machines.
“Working with Government, we’re determined to overhaul the system to cut out red tape, jargon and complication to make it easier for customers to buy fares they can trust, including from ticket machines.”
The planned overhaul has been hailed as “very good news” by Royston Smith, Tory MP for Southampton Itchen.
“I absolutely welcome this news,” Mr Smith said. “I am disappointed that rail companies did not choose to do this earlier.
“Nevertheless, it’s very good news for the travelling public.”
Railfuture, an independent organisation campaigning for better rail services, said although the trials were a “step in the right direction”, there is still a long way to go.
Spokesman Bruce Williamson said: “We certainly welcome any efforts to simplify the ridiculously complex ticket pricing system in this country.
“It is a step in the right direction but I think there is a long way to go until we achieve simple and cheap fares like some of our European neighbours.
“It is certainly helpful that some of these hidden fares will be unearthed and made available to the public, and hopefully there will be some wider savings for commuters.
“But the proof is in the pudding so we will have to wait and see how this experiment pans out.”
Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at The Campaign for Better Transport, also welcomed the news to simplify the “horribly complicated” fares system.
She called for the introduction of “long overdue” part-time season tickets and urged rail companies to protect station staffing levels, as ticket vending machines “cannot replace trained, visible members of staff”.
The news comes a few months after Echo reporter Richard Percival was quoted £80.20 when he asked staff at Southampton Central railway station the price of the cheapest ticket to London at 8am the following day.
On further investigation the same ticket could be brought for only £67.70, almost 16 per cent cheaper, by buying two individual tickets and splitting the journey.