Train passengers using the East Coast Main Line will have more flexible ticketing options from Sunday after operator London North Eastern Railway (LNER) said it will expand its trial of single leg pricing to cover its entire network.
LNER, which carries more than 20 million passengers a year, hopes that the new policy will tackle the problem of passengers shunning the railways because they are confused by the range of fares. Research by the Rail Delivery Group found that more than one in three people for whom the train is an option were put off by the complexity of fares.
The new fares are available for tickets bought from Sunday for travel from June 11. The change means that single fares across the East Coast route between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh will be around half the price of a return, allowing passengers to mix and match different types of tickets to get better value.
The Department for Transport took over control of LNER’s operations in June 2018 following the failure of the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise, and has been trialling the use of “single leg pricing” on selected routes since 2020.
Britain’s outdated train ticketing system means many return fares are only £1 more than single fares. That means passengers often cannot save money if cheaper Advance tickets for specific services are only available for one direction of their return journey. The use of “single leg pricing” removes the anomaly of some single tickets being almost as expensive as a return ticket and means passengers can more easily choose when to travel. When the trial started, people travelling between London to Edinburgh who bought a ticket at the station were charged £146.40 for a Super Off-Peak Single ticket or £147.40 for a Super Off-Peak Return ticket. But under single leg pricing, the cost of a single fell to £73.70.
The LNER trial scrapped Anytime Return, Super Off-Peak Return and Off-Peak Return tickets and replaced them with Anytime Single, Super Off-Peak Single and Advance Single tickets.
Rail ticketing has gone unreformed outside London since the mid-1990s and the new system should offer savings for commuters travelling fewer than five days a week or working flexible hours, according to the Rail Delivery Group. Its research found eight out of 10 backed changes to the current system and separate research by Ipsos Mori, commissioned by LNER, found 61 per cent of customers were in favour of single leg pricing being extended across all LNER routes.
LNER has also become the first train company to make tickets available six months in advance – with the aim of extending this to a year. Its “deal finder” allows passengers to set a maximum budget for their journey – and then receive a series of options for different days out.
LNER managing director David Horne said: “The expansion of single leg pricing will mean almost all of our customers will benefit from simpler fares and have the power to mix and match to get the best value fares. We believe that making fares simpler, smarter and fairer will encourage more people to choose rail, making a green and sustainable travel choice. Alongside our successful innovations from our legendary customer service to our industry leading digital products, LNER remains at the forefront of transforming rail.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The expansion of single leg pricing on LNER is the latest example of this Government getting on and delivering tangible reforms that will benefit rail passengers, delivering simpler, more flexible tickets that are better value. Passengers will get the best value ticket for their journey safe in the knowledge a single ticket will be around half the price of a return.”
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