Ticket machines

Ticket machines (TVMs) are designed to allow rail passengers to make quick and easy ticket purchases at the station, rather than using ticket offices. It’s a popular method, with around a third of passengers using a TVM to buy their tickets.

In 2017, we commissioned some ‘mystery shopper’ research into passengers’ experience of buying tickets from TVMs. The results showed that while the majority (80%) selected the most appropriate ticket for their journey, one in five mystery shoppers were unable to do so. The research also identified a number of areas of good practice for train companies to focus on.

In our published TVM review, we called on train companies to improve the service they provide to passengers, and to introduce a TVM Price Guarantee. We’ve committed to repeat the research to see what improvements have been made.

Our findings – 2018 research

We have published our findings on this year's research.

Research into passengers' experience of ticket vending machines - Report of findings - March 2018
Press release
Published 28 March 2018

  • 91% of users would have bought the most appropriate ticket for their journey, up 11% points from the previous survey in 2017
  • Of the 9% who might have bought the wrong ticket, 6% would have paid too much, down from 13% last year, and 3% would have got a ticket without the necessary flexibility, down from 6% last year

This research shows that there are still improvements to be made. In particular, the ticket types that can be purchased at TVMs, information on ticket restrictions and when they’re valid, and details of what times peak and off-peak tickets can be used.

The number of train companies who’ve committed to a TVM Price Guarantee, to refund the difference to passengers who bought a more expensive ticket than necessary, has also increased. All 17 companies are now signed up to the TVM Price Guarantee.

TVM Price Guarantee train operating company table

Train operating company Has TOC introduced a TVM Price Guarantee? Web link to TVM Price Guarantee
Arriva Trains Wales Yes https://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/Refunds/
Chiltern Yes https://www.chilternrailways.co.uk/ticket-types-fares
c2c Yes http://www.c2c-online.co.uk/about-us/our-policies/right-ticket-right-price-commitment/
East Midlands Trains Yes https://www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/#wrong-ticket
Govia Thameslink Railway Yes https://www.southernrailway.com/tickets/buy-tickets/refunds-and-changing-your-ticket
https://www.thameslinkrailway.com/tickets/buy-tickets/refunds-and-changing-your-ticket
https://www.greatnorthernrail.com/tickets/buy-tickets/refunds-and-changing-your-ticket
https://www.gatwickexpress.com/tickets/buy-tickets/refunds-and-changing-your-ticket
Greater Anglia Yes https://www.greateranglia.co.uk/tickets-fares/ticket-vending-machine-price-promise
Great Western Railway Yes https://www.gwr.com/plan-journey/tickets-railcards-and-season-tickets/ticket-types
https://www.gwr.com/help-and-support/refunds-and-compensation/unused-ticket-refunds
Heathrow Express Yes https://www.heathrowexpress.com/faqs/ticket-faqs
West Midlands Railway & London Northwestern Railway Yes https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co.uk/tickets-fares/price-promise
https://www.londonnorthwesternrailway.co.uk/tickets-fares/price-promise
Merseyrail Yes https://www.merseyrail.org/tickets-passes/refunds.aspx
Northern Yes https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/faq/tickets
Scotrail Yes https://www.scotrail.co.uk/about-scotrail/our-price-promise
Southeastern Yes https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/tickets/ways-to-save/ways-to-pay
https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/help-and-contact/help/faqs/buy-before-you-board
South Western Railway Yes https://www.southwesternrailway.com/contact-and-help/refunds-and-compensation/refunds
Transpennine Express Yes http://www.tpexpress.co.uk/help/contact-us/price-promise
Virgin Trains East Coast Yes https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/faq/tickets-booking/#cid_10942_0__784
Virgin Trains West Coast Yes https://www.virgintrains.co.uk/help-and-contact

Next steps

It’s important that the progress made continues. We’ll continue to monitor performance to ensure that train operators keep improving the information they provide to passengers via TVMs to make ticket buying clearer and easier.

TVM review related documents

Ticket vending machines review - 10 February 2017
Research into passengers’ experience of ticket vending machines - Report of findings - February 2017
Ticket Vending Machines research - letter to Rail Delivery Group - 9 February 2017
Rail Delivery Group response to ORR letter – 10 March 2017
Code of practice on retail information