Select Committee on Transport Fifth Report

2  Integrated Ticketing

The extent of integrated ticketing today

6. None of our witnesses dissented from the view that integrated ticketing—the issuing of a single ticket which will cover several legs of a journey, sometimes by different modes—was a good thing. Many witnesses were also of the view that public transport ticketing in the England was still not sufficiently integrated, either between different modes (e.g. bus and rail), across transport authority boundaries and sometimes even within a mode (e.g. between different bus operators in the same city).


7. Comprehensive through-ticketing is provided between passenger train operators on the National Rail network. Train operators are obliged, as a condition of their passenger licences, to participate in through-ticketing arrangements covering most station-to-station journeys[6] in the country. In addition, passengers can buy rail tickets that include other modes (London Underground, and some light rail systems and ferries) and even some major visitor attractions.[7] Some 413 million rail tickets were sold in 2006/07.[8] Of these, around 100 million included some sort of add-on, such as a London Travelcard or a passenger transport executive[9] multi-modal ticket. It is also increasingly possible, under a voluntary initiative by rail and bus operators, to buy a combined rail and bus ticket called "PlusBus"[10] for over 200 towns and cities outside the metropolitan areas.


8. In London there is a tradition of integrated ticketing on public transport, between the rail networks and other services now provided by TfL. For example the London Travelcard allows the holder to use bus, tram, Underground, Docklands, Overground and National Rail services. It can be bought in paper ticket format (with magnetic stripe), or for period (season) use can be held on an Oyster card.

9. Outside London, there is no requirement for rail or bus operators to provide integrated ticketing. Since bus deregulation and the consequent reduction in powers of the passenger transport executives, this is left entirely to the market and to voluntary arrangements between operators and local transport authorities. In the metropolitan areas and larger cities, a range of multi-modal and multi-operator tickets are available for local buses, trains, trams and metro systems.


10. Through-ticketing between rail stations has existed for so long that nowadays we do not even think about having to buy a second ticket when changing trains. Bus passengers, on the other hand, often have to buy a new ticket every time they change bus and on the return journey, unless a day ticket is available. Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive told us that this discouraged interchange and integration. For many passengers, they argued, integrated bus ticketing was more important than inter-modal integration.[11] The problem is not a new one. Even before bus deregulation in 1986, some operators required passengers to buy a new ticket every time they boarded a bus.[12] Though the Government recognised this problem in 1998, it confined itself to welcoming the limited work that was already being done by operators.

    Rail operators are required to offer through-ticketing for all rail journeys. [...] There are no equivalent obligations on bus operators. We welcome the positive action taken by some companies to accept other operators' tickets or participate in area ticketing schemes, but more needs to be done. We also welcome the increasing number of operators who are starting to introduce initiatives such as railbus tickets. We will encourage their wider use. We want to see more 'travelcard' schemes across the country.[13]

11. Ten years on, only limited progress has been made and in some cases the situation is worse. The Public Transport Ticketing Schemes Block Exemption Order 2001 (from the Competition Act 1998) has enabled more local authorities and operators to conclude joint ticketing agreements.[14] However, the competitive structure of the industry outside London and fears of entanglement with the Office of fair Trading mean that, outside the main cities, multi-operator tickets are still an expensive rarity. Through and return tickets are often not available even from the same operator. A day ticket or period ticket may suit the frequent traveller, but it is not suitable for all travellers. A journey that involves buying two or more bus tickets each way will be expensive, which is likely to dissuade young people and others on low incomes from travelling.

12. The situation is somewhat better in the passenger transport executive areas where multi-modal, multi-operator travelcards are generally available. Even here, however, difficulties remain. In West Yorkshire, with 37 operators, a total of 88 different single-operator ticket types are available.[15] Sometimes single-operator and multi-operator bus tickets will be in competition with each other. This provides choice for the passenger but it also makes the ticketing process confusing and expensive. There is virtually nothing in Putting Passengers First[16] (the Government's review of bus issues) that addresses these issues. A Government amendment to the Local Transport Bill, proposes revising the competition test to permit agreements between bus operators, so long as they are in the public interest.

13. Ten years after it expressed its commitment to promoting integrated bus ticketing, the Government has achieved too little of practical value. It is a nonsense that the everyday act of changing buses is still made unnecessarily inconvenient and expensive by poor ticketing arrangements. The Government needs to pay more attention to resolving these basic problems which penalise passengers and deter others from using buses at all.


14. Multi-modal travel cards are available in most passenger transport executive areas. For example, in Greater Manchester, one in twelve bus journeys (19 million) were made using multi-operator and multi-modal integrated tickets. However, these can be expensive for the occasional traveller. Passenger transport executive attempts to develop and promote multi-modal and multi-operator schemes can be frustrated by operators who focus on their own schemes in order to protect their own market share. The more limited, single-operator schemes do, however, provide a lower price option for passengers.

15. We recommend that the Traffic Commissioners be given powers, in response to a reference by either party, to arbitrate where bus companies and local transport authorities are unable to agree terms for multi-operator tickets.

16. In 2006, the major rail and bus operators launched PlusBus—a combined bus and rail ticket which allows unlimited bus travel in a defined zone within the main towns and cities outside the metropolitan areas.[17] PlusBus tickets are now available for over 200 towns and cities. Sales are rising fast—76,000 in 2006/07 and a forecast of 150,000 in 2007/08[18]—but still amount to only a tiny fraction of total rail tickets sold and the scheme is still relatively unknown.[19] This is a commercial venture which seems to have potential but it remains to be seen if the operators are serious about investing sufficient money in it to make it widely available and attractive to the public.[20]

17. In 2006/07 approximately 23% of the total distance travelled on passenger transport in Great Britain was made by coach or non-local bus.[21] By comparison, local bus accounted for 24%. Despite the scale of coach travel, coach seems to be a stand-alone mode with little ticketing integration in place or planned. There was no reference to coach travel in Putting Passengers First. This lack of integration is surprising, given the fact that the principal operator of long distance coaches (National Express) also has local bus operations, metro and rail franchises. Only a handful of witnesses commented at all on coach issues, with the general consensus being summed up by Peter Tomlinson of Iosis Associates:

    Long distance coach services are currently operated entirely separately from other modes, with no sign of a move towards integration with those other modes, either of ticketing or, in the larger picture, of services.[22]

18. Coaches are used by millions of passengers every year and they often serve locations and routes that are not easily accessible by rail. The Government seems to have a blind spot regarding integrating coaches with other modes, despite the potential to improve linkages with rail and bus services. The Government should give coaches greater consideration in future statements of public transport policy.


19. Train operators are promoting online ticket sales and use of ticket vending machines to reduce the transaction cost of sales, currently around £400 million per annum.[23] Many passengers stand to benefit from this, both in terms of the convenience offered by online sales and in terms of operators' cost-savings freeing resources to be used in other ways.

20. The increased opportunities to buy tickets through alternative outlets, such as the internet, is welcomed and of benefit to many passengers. However, it is slightly simplistic to point to growing internet sales figures to demonstrate popularity if passengers are effectively forced to use certain sales outlets because others are not available. The National Passenger Survey showed that while 65% of passengers were satisfied with ticketing facilities at stations, 19% were dissatisfied. Similar results apply to telephone bookings.[24]

21. A reliance on online sales leaves passengers without access to the internet or without credit cards at a severe disadvantage. A further problem for some passengers is that the full range of tickets—including PlusBus and cycle reservations—is not available online or through ticket vending machines. Combined with the reduction in the number of station ticket offices, and of the hours during which they are staffed, these changes in arrangements for the sale of tickets might bring benefits overall, but they conspire to make life very difficult for a minority of prospective travellers.[25]

22. The Rail White Paper promises a simplification of the rail fares structure to make it easier for customers to compare and choose the most appropriate ticket.[26] has highlighted the derogation that allows train operators to sell certain tickets, such as the "megatrain" ticket, only through restricted channels, such as their own websites. This means that a potential passenger might need to search multiple websites to locate the best fare. "This situation will get significantly worse as smart ticketing is introduced because, in our view, TOCs [train operating companies] will use this derogation over a wider range of tickets."[27]

23. As the rail industry promotes online ticket sales and other methods that reduce ticket retailing costs, it is imperative that the full range of tickets, including multi-modal options, be available at all main outlets. We recommend that the Government explores this issue with the Association of Train Operating Companies and includes requirements for ticket availability in future passenger licence conditions if necessary. If not, the Government's commitment to fare structure simplification in its Rail White Paper will be meaningless.


24. For those who live near the boundaries of transport authority areas, the lack of integrated ticketing between areas and sharp fare increases at the boundaries can present real problems. As we have already noted, the passenger transport executives offer multi-modal travelcards but a passenger whose routine journeys (for example, to work) involve crossing a passenger transport executive boundary, might be required to buy two travelcards or to rely on a combination of travelcard and individual tickets.[28]

25. There is currently a further problem with concessionary bus travel in England, with people on the boundaries of their local area often unable to use their pass for local journeys into neighbouring authority areas, even when these contain the shops, hospitals or other amenities on which they depend. This boundary problem will largely disappear with the introduction of national concessionary bus travel in April 2008. For those people living on the borders of England with Wales or Scotland, these problems will remain.

Government strategy on integrated ticketing

26. The Government's approach to integrated ticketing has been to require through-ticketing (and now some smartcards) on the railways, but to leave integration of bus and other ticketing to the private operators and local transport authorities. It has largely sought to enable and not to direct. The strategy appears to be one of allowing market forces to drive implementation, through customer demand and industry initiatives. Key elements of its approach include:

a)  support for the development of smartcard systems through a common standard (ITSO - see section 3) for rail, concessionary travel and London;

b)  measures in the Rail White Paper, including a simplification of rail fares structure and proposals for zonal rail pricing in major cities; and

c)  support for Transport Direct which provides integrated travel and ticketing information.[29]

27. In the eyes of many witnesses, the Government's strategy for integrated ticketing is far from clear or robust.[30] Many witnesses commented that they were unaware of any such strategy, including those in the industry who are keen to know. Coverage of ticketing issues in strategy documents is patchy. Whereas the Rail White Paper does address ticketing issues, Putting Passengers First (on buses) has very little to say on the subject.

Transport Direct

28. Transport Direct is a free, online journey planner run by the Department for Transport. As well as providing public transport, car and aircraft routes between any two locations, it currently allows users to:

a)  compare public transport options with car travel;

b)  obtain a car route that takes into account predicted traffic levels at different times of the day;

c)  get an estimate of the cost of a car journey;

d)  buy train and coach tickets from affiliated retail sites without having to re-enter journey details;

e)  use mobile phones to find out departure and arrival times for railway stations throughout Britain and for some bus or coach stops; and

f)  calculate CO2 emissions for a car or public transport for a specified journey.

29. Transport Direct is therefore a rather more sophisticated, though complex, tool than those offered by some other providers such as Network Rail and the AA. It is designed to promote transport choices based on a wide range of options and information. The Government says that Transport Direct is an important part of its integrated ticketing strategy. It was launched in 2005, costing £37 million over the first three years. Transport Direct now claims over 15 million user sessions since its launch, with 20% of users claiming they did something different as a result of using the site.[31] This may be so but its profile is still low: it was mentioned by hardly any other witness.

6   Train operators are also required to sell tickets that include London Underground but there is no statutory requirement to sell tickets to other destinations, such as metro or bus stops. Back

7   Ev 132 (It is not generally possible, however, to buy a through rail ticket with light rail as the first stage of the journey, e.g. Manchester Metro to London.)  Back

8   Data provided by the Association of Train Operating Companies from the LENNON passenger revenue database. Statistics on the extent of multi-modal journeys were not available from the National Travel Survey. Back

9   There are six passenger transport executives in England: Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. Strathclyde PTE became a Regional Transport Partnership in 2006.  Back

10   Ev 167 Back

11   Ev 76 Back

12   We were given the example of Midland Red West in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire (Ev 166). Back

13   Cm 3950, p. 42 Back

14   Q 75 Back

15   Ev 85 Back

16   Department for Transport, Putting Passengers First, December 2006 Back

17   Ev 168 Back

18   Local Transport Today 480, 25 October 2007, p14 Back

19   Q86 [Mr Dobbs] Back

20   Q 440 Back

21   Department for Transport: SB (07) 22: Public Transport Statistics Bulletin GB: 2007 Edition, p50 Back

22   Ev 67 Back

23   Ev 133 Back

24   Ev 131 Back

25   See, for example, Ev 71 and Ev 185-189 on the problems faced by cyclists trying to book train and ferry tickets. Back

26   Department for Transport, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, Cm 7176, July 2007, paras 10.22-10.44 Back

27   Ev 122 Back

28   See, for example, Ev 65 [Mr Horan]. Back

29   Ev 171-172 Back

30   For example, Ev 67 and Ev 125. Back

31   Local Transport Today 476, 30 August 2007, p10 Back

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