Rail passengers will save around a billion pounds in fares thanks to a price-guarantee app being developed by Virgin Trains.
The new technology, which is due to go live by the end of this year, will cut through confusing and outdated ticketing systems to ensure that customers are automatically given the best ticket for their journey at the tap of a button.
Customers across the whole UK rail network will benefit from an Oyster-style fares cap which will work out the cheapest fare for their journey retrospectively, ensuring they have the cheapest fare combination available.
The app will also deliver a seamless split-ticketing function, automatically calculating if a cheaper combination of fares for one journey is available, without having to change train or purchase multiple paper tickets.
The revolutionary new approach builds on Virgin Trains’ experience of innovation over the last two decades, having introduced the industry’s first automatic delay repay system, rolled out digital ticketing on all routes and recently abolished peak restrictions on Friday afternoons.
It also follows on from the fares reform consultation overseen by the Rail Delivery Group, which found that passengers were frustrated by arcane ticketing regulations which frequently led to them buying more expensive tickets than others available.
Phil Whittingham, Managing Director of Virgin Trains, said, “We’ve been in the UK rail industry for more than twenty-two years, leading the industry in areas such as introducing automatic delay repay and digital tickets and scrapping the Friday evening peak. But we want to do more. The changes we’ve announced today, which align with the Rail Delivery Group’s Fares Reform agenda, could save UK rail passengers around a billion pounds a year, and ensure Virgin Trains continues to deliver for customers whatever happens with the West Coast franchise.”
Customers are expected to save nearly 10% of the £11bn spent on fares every year by automatically finding the most appropriate ticket.
The development will be of particular benefit to commuters who do not work regular 9-5, Monday to Friday shifts, travel on some peak and some off-peak journeys or want greater flexibility over when they travel.
The ticket-management system developed by Virgin will automatically and retrospectively allow someone who has a peak-time return but who ends up travelling off-peak to pay the lower fare. Alternatively, if a customer ended up making multiple journeys where a weekly season ticket would have been cheaper, the system will cap their fares at the price of the weekly ticket.
The system will now be subject to industry approval and is expected to go live by the end of the year across the UK, though roll-out on London Underground and Overground routes is due to take a year longer while necessary ticket-scanning technology is introduced.