Rail smart cards to be rolled out across UK

Oyster card in use Smart cards, which can be topped up with money, will be rolled out across the country

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Smart cards, like those already used in London, are to be rolled out across the country, the transport secretary says.

Oyster card-style ticketing, allowing people to swipe a pre-paid card on a reader, and more varied peak pricing were part of reforms announced to MPs.

Justine Greening wants £3.5bn annual efficiency savings and said "inflation-busting fare rises" would end.

Under the reforms, the government will accept many of the recommendations in Sir Roy McNulty's report.

Sir Roy criticised the level of rail workers' wages and said some ticket offices may have to be closed.

Sir Roy, a former civil servant commissioned by Whitehall to produce his report, estimated savings of between £700m and £1bn could be made annually by 2019 if his recommendations were put in place.

Ms Greening said she would be consulting on the idea of introducing variable fares depending on the time of day, to discourage people from travelling during the morning and evening rush hours.

Prices are already cheaper outside of the 0700 to 1000 and 1600 to 1900 peak periods, but the idea is that pricing variations could be introduced even within those periods to "smooth" commuter demand.


  • Ending above-inflation fare rises "as soon as possible"
  • Expanding smart ticketing technology across England and Wales
  • Reforming rail franchises - including giving longer franchises - so operators can "deliver more value and better levels of service"
  • Funding thousands more carriages, extending electrification of the network and redeveloping stations
  • Strengthening the rail regulator's capacity to improve the passenger experience
  • Providing better punctuality and real-time travel information
  • Involving rail workers in plans to get the industry on a more sustainable footing, grow jobs and develop skills

Ms Greening said: "Reform is long overdue. Passengers rightly want to know that we have a plan to end the era of inflation-busting fares seen over recent years and taxpayers rightly want to see subsidies reduced to help us tackle the fiscal deficit.

"And my message to everyone today is very clear. The days of spiralling and unjustified railway costs are coming to an end."

Ms Greening accepted many of Sir Roy's recommendations and told Parliament she was introducing a command paper called Reforming Our Railways: Putting The Customer First.

Transport unions have expressed fears up to 12,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the reforms.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: "This isn't a recipe for efficiency, it's a recipe for exploitation with the train operators given the green light to rob passengers blind to travel on overcrowded and unsafe trains in the name of private profit.

"Axing ticket offices and guards will turn stations and trains into a criminal's paradise."

Michael Roberts, chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, welcomed the reforms and said: "Contracts signed between rail operators and government over the next two years will define how trains are run for the next two decades.

"The government must genuinely step back from the detail, give the railways the freedom to run better services at a lower cost and resist increasing the burden of red tape."

Justine Greening said she wanted to bring "fares out of the 1970s and into the 21st century"

He added it was "high time" to take a fresh look at fares and ticketing.

"Smart ticketing presents a great opportunity to make things easier for passengers and to offer people a more flexible way of travelling."

Among Sir Roy's recommendations are that the Department for Transport should undertake a "full review of fare policy and structures".

He also calls for a move towards a single rail regulator and suggests rail company franchises should be less prescriptive to allow train firms "more freedom to respond to the market".

Sir Roy also calls for "pay restraint".

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said Labour would not have accepted all of Sir Roy's recommendations and she said she was concerned about the plan to give train operating companies the "whip hand" over Network Rail.

She claimed the government's strategy was based on its "inability to stand up to vested interests".

Ms Eagle said there were "clear conflicts of interests" in the government's proposed reforms and a danger of the country's railway infrastructure being sold off.

Percentage train fare increases since 1992 against RPI inflation rate

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  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    I've been commuting into London for many years, but with all of these price increases, I've now found a new job outside of London and will use half of the £3.5k saving from my season ticket in additional petrol for my new commute by car. Isn't this the opposite of what the government are after?

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    And as a wheelchair user, I get onto the train how, when there are no staff?

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    I certainly welcome the countrywide introduction of smart card ticketing. Buying a ticket always seems to me the most frustrating part of the whole experience!

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Wait a second... DIScourage people from travelling by train during the morning and evening rush hours? I thought we were in the game of ENcouraging people to commute by train, to get cars off the roads and cut pollution. Anyone who can choose to travel at other times is already doing that; by construction, the people who travel at rush hour are the people who have no choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Public transport in the UK needs radical overhaul, the standards have been declining since the 1980s and this is despite massive direct and indirect subsidies (fuel rebates, no VAT on fares, OAP free travel). We either need to remove subsidies and use them to improve the road network or re-nationalise and produce a fully integrated network. I suspect nothing will happen and I'll drive and fly!


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