Rail Fare Fairness?

Mon,11 December 2023
News Transport
Disability Rights UK are challenging the process operated by online train ticket retailers using what is known as drip pricing which sees imposed booking fees of up to £6.45 per transaction.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said the companies must ensure their booking or finder’s fees are included within upfront prices, as drip pricing involves fees being added to advertised low prices, which means some online retailers are not as transparent as they need to be clearer and upfront on fare sales.

The ORR reviewed the websites and apps of 19 third-party train ticket retailers, and twelve of them were found to charge booking fees, and seven of these did not include this amount in the upfront price which ranged from 45p up to £6.45 per transaction. And to add to the confusion a finder’s fee was up to 10-15% of the saving made on split tickets, which involve purchasing multiple tickets for single journeys to cut the overall price.

ORR director of strategy, policy and reform Stephanie Tobyn said: Consumers can now purchase rail tickets from a wide variety of websites and apps, but this report highlights that some online retailers are not as transparent as they need to be when it comes to how they display or provide information on additional fees. We want to ensure consumers are provided with timely and relevant information when making purchase decisions and that drip pricing does not undermine consumer confidence when purchasing rail tickets online.”

The 12 retailers found to charge booking and/or finder’s fees were MyTrainTicket, Omio, Rail Europe, Railboard, Raileasy, Sojo, Split my fare, Train Hugger, Trainline, Trainpal, Trainsplit and TrainTickets.com.

Alex Robertson, chief executive at watchdog Transport Focus, said: Passengers should not be left in the dark about the cost of their ticket and added that online retailers must provide passengers with clear, accurate information upfront so they can make an informed choice.

Disability Rights UK Rail Policy Adviser Stephen Brookes says ‘The rail fare structure is not easy to understand as there are complexities of best deals and price variations imposed by individual Train Operating companies and their overuse of smartphone Apps, which excludes anyone who comes within the remit of the Digital Divide from economic travel and the best deals advertised by these Apps without the addition of unclear and what we say are totally unfair hidden additional vague transaction charges.'