Rail ticket websites confusing, Passenger Focus says
Rail passengers may be paying too much for tickets when buying online, a train customer watchdog has warned.
A report by Passenger Focus blames what it says is bewildering jargon and confusing restrictions for passengers paying over the odds.
The report said train companies must do more to ensure passengers do not overpay when using their websites.
Train operators said they were working to make it easier for passengers to find the best fares.
Passenger Focus suggested a range of improvements to websites including removing jargon, which it said confuses passengers.
The report has called for greater clarity about which tickets are for a particular train, and which can be used on any train.
Other recommendations include making it easier to check time-of-day restrictions and the "permitted routes" associated with a ticket.
Passenger Focus has highlighted how on some sites you could end up paying too much just by misunderstanding the terms "Open" and "Flexible".
It adds that on some sites it is too easy to pick two singles that add up to more than a return without realising you have done it.
Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: "Companies that use websites to sell train tickets must do more to make sure passengers do not overpay.
"It is too easy to pay over the odds simply through lack of familiarity with the fares system and its bewildering jargon.
"Making sure that passengers are not overcharged when they buy online may help improve passengers' perception of fares and value for money on Britain's railways.
"As more and more tickets are sold online, it is vital this is got right."
Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, said train companies were forcing more passengers to go online by cutting back on ticket office staff and opening hours.
He said: "Our members are obliged to offer passengers the cheapest ticket to get from A to B.
"There is no such obligation when rail companies are selling online and they offer a narrower and more expensive option on many routes. Passengers often end up paying more than they should."
A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said it was working closely with the industry and Passenger Focus to make it easier for passengers to find the best fare.
"The vast majority of the millions of people who travel by train every day get the right ticket for their journey," the spokesperson said.
"But we know that there are always improvements that can be made."