Audit of train company websites against the retail information code of practice

What was the audit about?

In February 2017, we commissioned an audit of train company websites against the retail information Code of Practice (the ‘Code’). The purpose of the audit was to evaluate train company websites against the principles set out in the Code to help understand the extent to which these websites provide the information that passengers need to make informed decisions when buying a train ticket and whether the information they give is suitably prominent, clear, and timely.

The audit was an action from the Action Plan for information on rail fares and ticketing. The plan, which was agreed between Government, industry, and consumer groups, sets out a number of actions designed to help deliver improvements that will make it easier for passengers to choose and buy the most appropriate ticket for their journey.

What have we found?

Overall, the audit found that most of the information is provided that passengers are likely to need when planning journeys and buying tickets.

It also found areas of good practice, for example:

  • Discounts were added automatically and were clearly explained;
  • Passengers were proactively warned when a cheaper option was available; and
  • Additional information was prominent and well signposted.

However, there were exceptions to this, with some information not always being available or suitably prominent, for example:

  • Information only found by hovering over a word or area which was not obvious, or behind a small or unintuitive icon; and
  • The use of some potentially unclear industry jargon.

An audit of train company websites against the retail information code of practice pdf icon PDF, 2,832 Kb

Next steps

We have written to train companies to highlight the general findings of the audit to recommend that they review these in the context of their website and consider what actions they can take to improve the information they provide to passengers.

In addition to this general review, there are three specific issues that warrant immediate action. These relate to:

  • The provision of information about, and application of, GroupSave discounts;
  • The provision of live journey information; and
  • Information about key terms and conditions.

For each of these areas we have asked train companies to confirm how they are dealt with on their website and, where relevant, to provide details of how they intend to address them and the timescales for doing so.

We will also work with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to help develop its website best practice guidance for train companies.

We will continue to work with the Department for Transport, RDG, Transport Focus and Which? to monitor the delivery of other actions to which the industry has already committed, some which relate to issues identified in the audit. These are:

  • Reducing or explaining jargon and plain English ticket explanations;
  • Identifying cheaper tickets; and
  • Providing better information about terms and conditions.

We will monitor the delivery of improvements and may undertake a further review of websites, focusing on specific areas of information, such as the prominence of key terms and conditions, later in the year. We will publish an update report in December 2017.