Harriet Berwick of SilverRail highlights the importance of making rail more accessible for everyone 

Rail ticket purchasing is a complex task for some, a chore for others and not even a second thought for the rest.  

Rail operators and service providers are responsible for providing an easy, comfortable journey for all – but some groups are currently being marginalized when it comes to buying rail tickets. 

Harriet Berwick

According to SilverRail’s research, three-quarters of Brits agree that the option of purchasing tickets online is especially tough for society’s most vulnerable.  

To put it more succinctly, the UK’s rail retail systems do not slot into everyone’s lives as seamlessly as they should. The research identified that a fifth of Brits (20 percent) felt that they would be unable to find the cheapest ticket for their journey. Most significantly, more than half of those (58 percent) who have bought a ticket in the past believe there are simply too many ticket options, with this number increasing to 71 percent amongst respondents aged 65+ years – highlighting that the majority of people are often left confused by the complexity of rail ticket variety. So, how can we combat these issues?   

Taking hassle out of the equation  

Firstly, by improving rail accessibility. According to Age UK, a quarter (26 percent) of people aged 65 to 74 and around three-fifths (61 percent) of people aged 75+ do not regularly use the internet. This means that a huge part of society who also use public transport such as trains do not buy their tickets online and therefore struggle to find the correct ticket, price and journey by themselves.  

The U-turn on closing ticket offices that took place late last year highlighted the continued appetite for human interaction when buying tickets. This is backed by SilverRail’s research that also found that nearly half (48 percent) of Brits favor purchasing tickets at the station as opposed to online. 

Luckily, there are a number of helpful initiatives being implemented up and down the country to help passengers that are either unwilling or unable to engage fully with online ticket purchases.   

At SilverRail, we’re pioneering solutions such as providing Smart Kiosks at stations that allow the same flexibility and pricing as online purchases, which guide passengers to find the right ticket. Likewise, we’re also enabling train tickets to be bought from convenience stores on UK high streets, which we’ve piloted with Transport for Wales and Payzone. These options improve the access passengers have to a full range of fares and do so in an environment which makes it easy to find the best ticket. 

In addition, fares should be simplified. When googling the number of different rail fares available, one is presented with an array of options: off-peak single, off-peak return, anytime single, anytime return, super off-peak, advance. Compare this with France that only offers rail passengers a few fares when they buy tickets, and we can see how important it is to simplify rail fare purchasing.   

The journey ahead 

Ultimately, all passengers should be able to find the best ticket for their needs – online and offline. 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 required needs – can navigate our rail network confidently.  

With rail fares set to increase this year, operators should be doing all they can to make ticket buying less confusing and easier to access.   

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.  


Harriet Berwick is Director of Retail Products at SilverRail. SilverRail develops technology to help rail operators and travel agencies transform how they serve customers and run their businesses. Discover how SilverRail’s solutions are driving real-world value both for travellers and operators the world over.