Tourists buy tickets at London Liverpool Street stationImage copyright Getty Images

Britain’s rail companies are to launch a public consultation aimed at making ticketing fairer and easier to use.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents rail firms, said about 55 million different fares exist in the current system.

A passenger group said reform was “overdue”.

The industry admits passengers are not currently always offered the cheapest fare available due to “long-standing anomalies” such as split ticketing.

That means it can be cheaper for passengers to buy several tickets for a single journey than one ticket.

Another “anomaly” it highlights is the charging of a peak-time fare when half a trip is on an off-peak service.

The industry has pledged that average fares will not rise as a result of any reform.

Rules governing how tickets are sold and how fares are set date back to 1995, and have not kept pace with technology or how people work and travel, the RDG said.

It said existing laws were based on customers visiting ticket offices to buy tickets and do not reflect the rise in smartphones or the increase in part-time and freelance work patterns.

“Long-standing anomalies are becoming locked in… as a result it has become increasingly difficult for rail companies to guarantee the right fare,” it said.

‘Well-meaning but outdated’

A reformed ticketing system could include integrated tickets covering other modes of transport such as buses and trams, and more flexible tickets for part-time workers, the RDG said.

It added that a more sophisticated computer-based system of ticketing would be able to automatically offer customers the lowest fare.

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said the industry is committed to reforming “well-meaning but outdated” regulation.

“The industry doesn’t have all the answers, which is why we want to hear views from passengers, communities and businesses in all parts of the country,” he said.

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Media captionHow do UK rail fares compare to Europe?

The consultation will be launched next month and will run until September. It will lead to a report containing proposals for governments to consider.

Transport Focus, a passenger interests group working on the consultation, said the debate on reform options was “overdue”.

“Rail passengers want a rail fares system they can trust, that is simpler, offers better value for money and is more understandable,” said the group’s chief executive, Anthony Smith.

‘No-one trusts’ rail firms

Steve Chambers, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, welcomed the attempt to improve ticketing, but warned “it will need government support to make it happen”.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said that “no-one trusts” private rail firms to “do the right thing by passengers”.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We want passengers to always be able to get the best possible deal on their ticket and we welcome the industry’s commitment to review fares.”

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