Pay-as-you-go train travel could expand nationwide

Helen Coffey

The UK comes a step closer to offering pay-as-you-go rail travel nationwide as the Department for Transport (DfT) today launches a consultation into expanding the ticketing model.

PAYG travel, also known as smart ticketing, is currently used in London and was introduced across Yorkshire in a partnership with Northern Rail and the TransPennine Express in November 2018.

It involves using a contactless bank card or a smartcard, such as TfL’s Oyster, to pay for journeys on public transport with no need for tickets.

The paperless system is thought to simplify travel by eradicating the need for passengers to queue up for tickets and eliminating the confusion that comes with figuring out which ticket type is needed.

The DfT has said it plans to roll out the scheme across the country by 2020, although this is dependent on the response to the 12-week consultation – which will gather views from passengers and other rail stakeholders on the potential to make PAYG accepted more widely – being favourable.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said: “We want to make rail journeys simpler and easier for passengers. Smart ticketing is the modern answer – offering simpler fares, fairer deals and less confusion for passengers.

“This consultation is about finding out what works for people, and we want to know how pay-as-you-go could make life easier for passengers who make hundreds of millions of journeys each year.”

The DfT has already invested £80m in smart ticketing nationally.

“There is great potential in expanding PAYG, but we need to make sure we get it right and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard as we develop our reform plans,” Jones added.

Consumer watchdog Which? has welcomed the move.

Alex Hayman, managing director of public markets, said: “The proposed pay-as-you-go system could go a long way to making train journeys simpler and improving passengers’ experience – the industry, government and regulators must ensure the full benefits of smart ticketing are realised as soon as possible.

“It is vital that automatic compensation is included in this rollout so that passengers no longer have to jump through hoops to get the money that they are owed.”