14. What steps his Department is taking to simplify ticketing information for rail passengers. (900464)
Passengers are frustrated by the lack of information they get when choosing their ticket. The problems can be deep-rooted, but when I started as rail Minister I wanted to make rapid progress. I have been working with industry, the regulator and consumer groups, having launched an action plan on fares and ticketing. We are getting on with the job of delivering the many, many proposals contained therein.
We certainly recognise that fares revenue is crucial to funding the day-to-day operation of the railway. I agree that all franchises should listen to passengers, and ensure that their fare structures are both fair and logical, as well as keenly priced, to support the many passengers who rely upon them.
Southend has two train lines and multiple stations within the Southend boundary. Would it not be simpler if the same ticket could be used on both lines, which would be good for residents and visitors alike? It would clear things up for visitors, allowing them to do journeys into Southend and then pop in somewhere else on the way back to London.
I agree that Southend’s beauties merit a journey by all passengers, wherever possible. We are seeing rapid technological change on the railway. The growth in smart ticketing and the various ticket media within a relatively short period will enhance the possibility for passengers to experience the flexibility to which my hon. Friend refers. I am looking forward to working with the industry on driving that technological change to make that vision a reality.
The ticketing information in which passengers are most interested is the price. Since 2014, commuter rail fare increases have been capped to the retail prices index, but in an answer to me yesterday, the rail Minister said that that fares policy is “under review”. Next month’s inflation figures will determine the cap for January 2018. If the Department reverts to the old formula, fares could rise by 5% or more, pricing many off the railways. Next week, when the Secretary of State announces his investment plans for control period 6, will he pledge that the improvements that passengers need will come at a price they can afford?
I suppose that I should start by welcoming the hon. Lady to her new position, although she has started to prognosticate already about what may or may not occur in the future. We have no intention of seeking to raise fares in the way that she describes, and it is not an appropriate path to go down. We always seek to put passengers first. We are continuing to maintain the cap at the moment, but we keep policies under review at all times. She should not read more into that than is actually there.