POLITICIANS have backed plans to overhaul the ticketing process on UK trains and make it easier to buy cheaper tickets.

Revealed by the industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), the measures aim to remove the need for passengers to buy split tickets to get the best deal.

The proposals include using smart ticketing and moving towards a system where rail users only pay for what they need. Split ticketing is currently used by savvy travellers to pay less on their tickets by buying legs of the journey individually.

The Easier Fares For All plan represents the industry’s first major contribution to the Government-commissioned Williams Review, which is evaluating all aspects of the rail network.

South Lakes MP , Tim Farron, said: “The outdated and unfair rail fares system is desperately in need of reform so today’s recommendations from the Rail Delivery Group are very encouraging.

“Introducing smart ticketing would help transform the current system, and with more and more people now working flexible hours it is vital we have fairer ticket prices to reflect the way modern businesses work.

“With so many passengers wanting to overhaul the way they pay their rail fares, surely this should be something that the Government cannot delay.”

Many rail users go to sites such as TrainSplit and SplitTicketing.com, who work out the cheaper price and allow customers to buy reduced tickets without having to do it themselves.

A disparity can be seen between prices when buying through Northern’s website and buying the same ticket from TrainSplit.

For example, a ticket from Carlisle to Barrow at 6.22am this Friday would cost £34.45 on TrainSplit and £43.80 on Northern.

However, if rail users wanted to travel from Carlisle to Manchester Piccadilly on Saturday at 7.47am it would cost them £12 buying from Northern and £38.07 buying through TrainSplit.

Travelling on the same day - but at 6.47am and from Barrow to London Euston - rail users could save £1.36 by buying from TrainSplit as opposed to Northern.

Journeys from the north to the west of the county appeared to be very similar on both sites, as well as from the south to the west.

The RDG claims that its plan would remove the need for passengers checking various sites for the best fare. A KPMG survey commissioned by the RDG found that only one in three (34%) passengers were “very confident” they bought the best value ticket for their last journey, and just 29% were “very satisfied” with the ticket-buying experience.

The RDG proposals include:

n A switch to a single leg pricing structure which would allow passengers to “mix and match” the types of tickets they buy (the existing regime means some single tickets for long distance trips are just £1 cheaper than a return)

n Single leg pricing would help with the roll out of pay as you go systems and the use of mobile phones to pay for travel

n Regulations around peak and off-peak pricing changed to spread demand for train travel across the day

The plan follows a public consultation which received responses from nearly 20,000 people.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG, said: “Reconfiguring a decades-old system originally designed in an analogue era isn’t simple, but this plan offers a route to get there quickly.

“Ultimately, it is up to governments to pull the levers of change.

“So this report is a call on them to work with us to update the necessary regulations and subsequently the system of fares.”

Watchdog Transport Focus, which carried out the consultation in partnership with the RDG, welcomed the proposals and declared that “the time for piecemeal change has gone”.

We asked our readers whether they thought a change to the ticketing process was needed.

Commenting on Facebook Gordon Ford posted: “You can often split your ticket now and pay a lot less than buying just one direct ticket.”

Peter Sherrington posted: “Yes I agree that the prices should be fair. To get a ticket for the whole journey should not cost more than a spilt ticket.”

On the Twitter page Rocker Dragon MJ tweeted: “They either need to actually improve the service or cut the prices.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “I welcome the proposals.

"It demonstrates the general thinking going on to simplify the ticketing process and make it more open.

“It must be good for the consumer and supplier.”

Mr Stevenson added: “Technology is changing how we buy tickets and where we use the services. We need to make it as simple, open and transparent, so people can see the prices they are getting.

“It would always be nice to see cheaper tickets, but we have to achieve the right balance between the tax payer subsidising the railway and the customer paying for the service.

“We need to make it as transparent as possible, to make it as easy as possible to get the best price.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “RDG’s contribution to the Williams Review is welcome.

“In the short term, we are ready to work with the industry on how their proposals might work and be tested in the real world.”

Trials of changes to the fares system are expected to begin later this year.

The new system could be rolled out on an operator by operator basis over the next three to five years. n Tell us your views at nwemail.co.uk