Virgin Trains Ticketing issues Charter for Change

Posted: 21 May 2024 | | No comments yet

Virgin Trains Ticketing has today issued its ‘Charter for Change’ report, calling for politicians to urgently reform rail retail and unlock a better deal for passengers.
New research from the retailer reveals that more than half (57%) of passengers have no idea that train operators can restrict certain train fares; 77% believe train fares are too complicated; 86% think fares should be the same wherever you buy your ticket from.

Virgin Trains Ticketing

The current rail retail model has left passengers confused and lacking confidence in the industry, Virgin Trains Ticketing has warned, as it calls on all political parties and the broader industry to ensure passengers can get the best deal wherever they buy their ticket.   

Reflecting the views of UK consumers, Virgin Trains Ticketing’s ‘Charter for Change’ report reveals that 57% of rail passengers have no idea that train operators can restrict certain fares, which do not have to be made available for sale by independent retailers. Four in five (86%) passengers think train fares should be the same wherever you buy your train ticket from and half (50%) of passengers say that prices being inconsistent between retailers is one of their top frustrations.  

More than seven in 10 (77%) feel train fares are too complicated to understand, and getting the best fare for the journey is top of the priority list (58%). Nine in 10 (94%) passengers would like retailers to have access to live data on available fares, which would enable passengers to see more journey options and alternative destinations. 

The report also highlights consumer frustration around Delay Repay with 73% of passengers saying they would like to receive Delay Repay payments from the same place they bought their ticket, rather than applying to the train operator separately.   

Virgin Trains Ticketing has launched ‘Charter for Change’ to call for a fair and competitive rail retail market. Key proposals from the ‘Charter for Change’ report include:  

  • Uniform access to all tickets and fares: Ensuring that all discounts and fares available through train operators are also available across all sales channels to eliminate passenger confusion and improve consistency.  
  • Open data sharing: Providing independent retailers with access to live availability data from across the network to ensure passengers can find the best deal to suit their needs.  
  • Inclusion of services like Delay Repay: Enabling all retail channels to offer essential services like Delay Repay and Mobile Pay-As-You-Go.  

Aaron, a train traveller from Holyhead, uses the train regularly for work and leisure and considers himself a nerd-level expert on train ticketing, yet still struggles to get fares he knows are available. He explains: “The system is too complex. I’d say I only see the fare I want first time, a third of the time. I just want to be able to go onto the site or app of my choice and find the best value deal for my journey. I don’t want to see variability of £200 for a seat on the same train.”  

Launching ‘Charter for Change’ outside of Westminster ahead of yesterday’s All-Party-Parliamentary Rail Group, Mark Plowright, Director of Virgin Trains Ticketing, said: “The current retail environment was not set-up with a large market of independent retailers in mind and we’ve been left with a model that limits what retailers can do.  

“Buying a train ticket is the first interaction any passenger has with the network and getting the rail ‘shop window’ right is crucial if we are going to boost rail ridership and win back passengers’ trust. That means fare reform – simpler and cheaper fares – but it also means addressing the current rail retail model which is causing confusion and frustration for passengers. This divide between train operators and rail retailers is outdated and unnecessary. It stifles competition and doesn’t reflect the growing role that independent retailers play in today’s industry. 

” We’ve seen encouraging conversations around rail retail in recent weeks but it’s time to tackle these issues without further delay. ‘Charter for Change’ is about moving rail retail up the political agenda so we can unlock a better deal for UK passengers.” 

Virgin Trains Ticketing’s Charter for Change invites politicians from all parties to support this transformative charter as it paves the way towards a more passenger-centric rail retail framework in the UK.  

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