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Return train tickets ‘to be scrapped’

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Return rail fares could be ditched and replaced with two single tickets in reforms of the rail system.

The new fares are expected to be revealed by the transport secretary Mark Harper tomorrow (Tuesday 7 February) as part of plans to bring track and train operations under the control of a new body called Great British Railways.

Great British Railways will combine existing work done by Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group and the Department for Transport.

Under the proposals return tickets will be scrapped and new digital ticketing introduced.

Return tickets currently offer a discounted rate. According to reports in The Telegraph, these will be replaced by “single-leg pricing” which will mean that the price of two singles will be the same as the current return fare.

The new fare structure would bring Britain in line with other European countries, where it is normal to buy a pair of single tickets to make a two-way journey.

Harper is also expected to simplify the rail ticketing system. This could potentially mean the end of paper tickets, which would be replaced by digital tickets and/or a UK-wide smartcard system, similar to Oyster cards used in London.

Will train fares rise?

Campaigners have raised fears that ditching return tickets could mean costs will rise for travellers taking a return trip.

But one train expert says this isn’t the case. Mark Smith, author of the Man in Seat 61 blog, tweeted: “Websites will be able to show a simple choice of (for example) £90 full-flex, £40 semi-flex or £20 train-specific advance-purchase for your outward journey & a completely separate choice of £90 full-flex, £40 semi-flex or £20 train-specific advance-purchase for the way back.

“You’ll be able to save money by mixing & matching a cheap advance fare out with an off-peak back, to be flexible with your return. At present, as soon as you need an off-peak for the way back, you may as well pay the extra £1 and buy an off-peak return.

“Single-leg ticketing also means people making ‘open-jaw’ and circular journeys won’t be penalised – at present they need to buy two singles which can cost almost as much as two returns.”