East Coast train fares simplified in bid to boost passenger numbers


Fares on the East Coast Main Line have been simplified and are being based on demand on a trial basis.

Operator LNER launched a two-year trial overhauling the fares system on the East Coast Main Line today for travel from February 5 2024.

The scheme applies to journeys between London King’s Cross and each of Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh.

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The number of available standard class fares for those routes has been cut from seven to three:

  • Advance (Fixed) – the best value fare, booked in advance for a fixed journey with a guaranteed reserved seat for travel with LNER.
  • ‘70min Flex’ (Semi-Flexible) – a new type of ticket offering customers the flexibility to travel on other LNER services, which can be 70 minutes before or after their original booked journey.
  • Anytime (Fully-Flexible) – this ticket can be used at any time of day.

Dynamic pricing has been introduced in an attempt to smooth demand throughout each day by incentivising passengers to travel at quieter times.

Fares are being made more or less expensive based on the level of demand for each service.

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LNER managing director David Horne said: “LNER remains at the forefront of rail reform.

“Simplifying fares is vital in making rail travel more attractive. Customers tell us they find fares confusing.

“This exciting new pilot is the next step in our plans to overhaul complicated and outdated ticketing options and we look forward to hearing feedback from our customers.

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“We believe that making fares simpler, smarter and fairer, while introducing value for money and modern flexibility, will encourage more people to choose to travel by rail, the most sustainable travel choice.”

LNER cited a survey by industry body the Rail Delivery Group which indicated that 35% of people for whom train travel is an option are put off because they find it difficult to find the best fare.

Rail minister Huw Merriman said: “We are delivering on our commitment to reform the railways, working with operators to provide passengers with simpler and more flexible tickets that better suit their needs.”

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LNER, which is owned by the Department for Transport, launched single-leg pricing in 2020.

This involved introducing single fares around half the price of a return, allowing passengers to mix and match different types of tickets to get better value.

Britain’s outdated train ticketing system means many return fares are only £1 more than single fares.

Stewart Fox-Mills, programme director for fares, ticketing and retail at the Great British Railways Transition Team, said: “It is great to see this next step in the simplification of rail fares.

“This pilot will move the dial towards simpler and better fares for customers.”

Simplifying fares is among the proposed tasks for Great British Railways (GBR), a planned new public sector body to oversee the railways.

GBR was initially due to be launched early this year but the required legislation has not been passed and no timeline has been set out by the Government.

Alex Robertson, chief executive at watchdog Transport Focus, said: “The plan to trial demand-based pricing on some LNER routes is a radical change for passengers.

“Transport Focus strongly supports fares reform and it’s right to trial new ideas to see if they work.

“We look forward to hearing how the trial progresses and will be monitoring that it does indeed deliver better value for money tickets for passengers.”

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