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Rail Ticketing

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 30 March 2017

The Department continues to work with the industry to explore what further improvements can be made to simplify fares. The action plan we announced in December will drive improvement for passengers, including removing jargon, improving ticket vending machines and trialling approaches to simplifying the fares structure.

Many of my constituents travel frequently by train, but not every day and not always at peak hours, so the traditional season ticket is not appropriate for them. What new ticket products is the Minister encouraging train operating companies to introduce to meet and encourage such demand?

My hon. Friend is quite right to raise the issue of part-time season tickets. This is a matter of personal importance to me, and I encourage all train operating companies to consider whether the range of products they have on offer actually meets their customers’ needs. With regard to his own route to Milton Keynes, I am sure he will be pleased to know that the next West Midlands franchise will require that a part-time flexible season ticket be offered by the winning bidder, and I look forward to seeing what those bids contain.

Will the Government also simplify the process of compensation for customers when a train is cancelled? The school run train in the Rhondda is often cancelled, as for that matter are First Great Western trains from London to Cardiff. There is no automatic compensation on either of those lines, which other providers give. Why can we not have automatic compensation when a train is cancelled?

There is a very lengthy answer, but I am sure you would not indulge me if I gave it, Mr Speaker. I say briefly to the hon. Gentleman that we need to ensure that whenever a passenger makes a claim for compensation, they can demonstrate they were on the train in question. Automatic compensation can be achieved if they have either a season ticket or an advance purchase ticket. I would also observe that compensation arrangements on the Wales and Borders franchise are a matter for the Welsh Assembly.

One aspect of the ticketing system is that a lot of the money paid in compensation by Network Rail to the rail companies does not reach the passengers, which is quite scandalous. What action is the Minister taking to ensure that that money in fact ends up in passengers’ bank accounts?

We had a very fruitful discussion of schedule 8 payments in the Transport Committee last week, when I explained at some length why the two are not directly comparable. My hon. Friend will have heard what the chief executive of the Office of Rail and Road had to say about trying to make schedule 8 payments more transparent and more closely related to what the passengers themselves have experienced. I look forward to hearing the Select Committee’s recommendations in due course.