From digital exclusion to ticketing confusion, a new study into British rail habits has found that the UK’s train ticketing landscape is rife with challenges.
Commissioned by SilverRail, a retail solutions provider for the rail industry and avid supporter of the rail passenger, the research shows plainly that the modern age of digital convenience is missing the mark for Brits.
Despite being considered a ‘digitally-savvy nation’, the UK prefers to do things the old-fashioned way, with nearly half (48%) of Brits surveyed favouring purchasing train tickets at the station rather than via an online app (a score that rises to 52%) that have never bought rail tickets before). Official statistics point to this being one third of all rail tickets sold, which on current revenue would equate to around £2.8bn.
Perhaps unsurprisingly this amplifies with age, climbing from 36% among 18-24-year-olds to 63% for those aged 65 and over.
However, it was complexity that proved to be the biggest issue in train travel, with a fifth of Brits (20%) feeling that they would be unable to find the cheapest ticket for their journey. And, most significantly, more than half of those (58%) who have bought a ticket in the past believe there are simply too many ticket options, with this number increasing to 71% amongst Brits aged 65+ years.
From ‘peak’ to ‘off-peak’ to ‘super-off-peak’ the industry jargon confounds 19% of the population*. And it was the most vulnerable who struggled most, with more than a quarter of Brits with a physical disability (26%) saying they are likely to struggle to secure the cheapest ticket, and to be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of tickets on offer (69%).
Mind the Gap
Indeed, these vulnerable sections of society frequently need help, with 71% of respondents aged 65+ and 69% of Brits with physical disabilities, expecting to struggle to pick the right type of ticket, given the many options available.
As a result, 43% of respondents have friends and family who struggle to purchase rail tickets online – while an additional 36% say they have stepped in to purchase rail tickets on behalf of someone who was unable to do so themself.
To this point, just over three-quarters of the UK (76%) agreed that purchasing rail tickets online is difficult for elderly and disabled passengers.
Perhaps most worrying is that 17% of Brits would feel ‘nervous’ when it comes to purchasing a rail ticket online – a stat that sadly rises to 27% for those with a physical disability.
David Pitt, VP of UK Rail at SilverRail, said, “Despite the UK’s vision for an all-inclusive rail system and even with the recent U-turn to close ticket offices, we’re still a long way from ensuring all people – no matter their age, background, or disability status – can navigate our rail network confidently. While the shift to digital ticketing is welcomed by most passengers, it’s imperative that we don’t sideline the most vulnerable in society.
“There are a number of fantastic initiatives coming through to help passengers that are either unwilling or unable to engage fully with ticket purchases on their mobile phone. For a while, we, at SilverRail, have recognised that one size does not fit all. Simple solutions like providing smart kiosks at stations or enabling train tickets to be bought from convenience stores on UK high streets, both with the same access to cheaper fares that mobile users expect, could make all the difference to travellers.
“At the end of the day, the passenger should not be penalised in either cost or experience however they wish to buy their ticket.”