Changing how we buy rail tickets

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

On many occasions I have written of the importance of rail transport to tourism.

How tickets are sold for leisure travel needs re-thinking

Not only is it useful for day trips as opposed to using a car (as anyone who has tried to drive into York on a Saturday in August will have found out) but it is more relaxing than negotiating traffic jams and the plod of endless roundabouts.

So I can’t say that I was enthusiastic about Sir Peter Hendy’s comments at conference on rail recovery this week. As the boss of Network Rail it is he and his team who will decide how railways will operate when normality returns.

He thinks that the pattern of commuting may not return  since more people may work from home and only go into their workplaces a couple of times a week or even  once or twice a fortnight.

Leisure travel might bring more pressure on weekend services yet he said, sounding like a train spotter, that he used to watch the crowded Cornish Riviera depart Paddington and thinks we might have to get used to that level of service again.’

I can’t think of a better way to drive people away from trains!

If commuting does reduce then leisure travel will become even more important to the rail companies. Just as high fares turn people away, so do crowded trains.

The bright spot in his talk was that because of leisure travel potentially growing at weekends, the rail industry might have to re-think doing engineering work at weekends. Doing that work between 10am and 4pm in the daytime might be the answer.

The other problem is ticketing. The traditional methods of season tickets seem out-of-date now and there is talk or being able to buy a season ticket that allows for a number of trips over a specified time instead of a weekly or monthly pass.

Can’t something similar be available for leisure travellers too? In this area there has been little ticket development for decades.

What I would like to see is an adaptation of the old system of being able to by rover tickets in certain geographic areas. But it would be better for leisure travellers to able to buy four day return tickets that could be used at any time but because I am buying tickets up-front I would want a discount. And if I need to renew my now expired rail card I would want a discount off the discount given by the rail card in return for me giving my money to the rail companies up front.

Obviously I don’t know where I would be going so instead of me buying four return tickets to Brighton or Clacton why can’t I buy £100 tickets and get £125 worth of travel, the destination price to be debited from my railcard.

In essence I want an Oyster card for all UK rail travel.  

If readers have other ideas on how to update rail tickets for leisure travellers drop me a line at

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