Ticket vending machines
Ticket vending machines (TVMs) are designed to provide rail passengers with the opportunity to make quick and easy ticket purchases at the train station as an alternative to using other means such as ticket offices. This is a popular method of buying tickets with around one third of passengers using a TVM to buy tickets.
We have published our findings on the ticket vending machines review.
Our research into passengers’ experience of ticket vending machines showed that overall 1 in 5 mystery shoppers selected a more expensive ticket than necessary for their journey or were at risk of a penalty fare when using a ticket machine. The research also identified areas of good practice where all train operators need to take action. In particular, providing clear, usable and timely information on the product range, ticket restrictions and validity, and on/off peak sales.
We have asked the Rail Delivery Group to set out publicly what improvements to they expect to be delivered at an individual train operator level in the good practice areas in the next six months. We have also recommended to train companies that they make a price guarantee commitment to refund the additional costs of where the passenger finds that they could have bought a cheaper ticket for the same journey.
We identified a number of problems with TVMs and sought information from train operators to understand the issues further. Our findings were summarised in our ‘Measuring Up’ report in June 2016. Whilst some progress had been made, we found issues in five key areas:
- use of jargon terminology;
- provision of information about available products;
- provision of information about ticket restrictions and validities;
- timing of off-peak sales; and
- filtering of search results for example on the basis of price.
It was clear that more needed to be done to ensure TVMs meet the needs of passengers. Therefore, in line with our Business Plan commitment for 2016/17, we have commenced a review to understand whether, and to what extent, train operators have made progress to improve TVMs, and to determine what further action may be necessary to protect rail passenger interests.
There are a number of strands to this review:
Mystery shopping research
An exercise involving over 750 mystery shopping assessments taking the shopper through the purchasing 'journey' on the TVM. This will focus on the five areas of the 'Measuring Up' report, to gauge passengers' ability to make the most appropriate decision of what ticket to buy from the TVM for their journey. It will provide clarity on whether TVM-based transactions are leading to the purchase of a more expensive (or inappropriate) ticket than required for the passenger's journey needs.
Industry improvements and the ATOC 10 point plan
We are testing industry’s progress to meet the commitments made in the 10 point improvement plan aimed at delivering or facilitating improvements in a range of areas for TVMs, and will review it with the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC ) in the light of the results of the mystery shopping research. We will also be working with ATOC to encourage greater public transparency of what has been achieved and what more needs to be done, by whom, and by when.
We will be meeting with individual train operators following our further request for information to establish what progress has been made to assist TVM users, what barriers remain to making further improvements, how these are being overcome and to what timescale. We also want to know what initiatives and improvements they have made or are planning to help passengers make accurate ticket purchases.
Code of practice on retail information
The Code provides clear guidance to train operators regarding the information that should be available to passengers when choosing, buying and using rail tickets as well as how it can be presented. We want to know how train operators are meeting the principles of the code in order to increase the likelihood of compliance with their obligations in consumer law.
We will repeat our research later this year to establish whether the experience of passengers in this area has improved and publish an update on our work early 2018.