Knowledge Hub / UK Train Traveller Survey Results: From Digital Exclusion to Ticketing Confusion

UK Train Traveller Survey Results: From Digital Exclusion to Ticketing Confusion

The author: Isabella Hales


Written by Isabella Hales

Here at SilverRail, we are passionate about creating solutions which drive real-world value, both for travellers and operators over the world. Our mission is to change the way people move by building the best retail solutions for global rail.

Air travel is a major source of pollution producing up to 10 times the emissions of rail (around 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK alone) and for all the welcome signs of greater adoption of electric vehicles, most cars on the road today are still reliant on fossil fuels. Efficient mass transit systems are simply a better alternative; they have a smaller carbon footprint, reduce congestion and are often faster and cheaper than alternatives.

To succeed in making rail more appealing and simple for travellers, we needed to understand the pain points of rail travel so we commissioned a new study into British rail habits to gain valuable insights. Our research provided one key takeaway- the modern age of digital convenience is missing the mark for rail passengers.

Why are people choosing not to travel via rail?

1. Complexity

Complexity proved to be the biggest issue in train travel, with a fifth of travellers (20%) unable to find the cheapest ticket for their journey and 58% believing there are simply too many ticket options, with this number increasing to 71% among those aged 65+. From ‘peak’ to ‘off-peak’ to ‘super-off-peak’, the industry jargon confounds 19% of the population. Our research showed that it was the most vulnerable who struggled most, with more than a quarter (26%) struggling to secure the cheapest ticket, and 69% overwhelmed by the sheer variety of tickets on offer.

2. Difficulty purchasing tickets

These vulnerable sections of society frequently need help with 71% of passengers aged 65+ and 69% of physically disabled passengers struggling to pick the right ticket format. As a result, 41% of the UK have friends and family struggling to purchase rail tickets online- while an additional 36% stepped in to purchase rail tickets on behalf of someone who was unable to do so themself.

To this point, over three-quarters of the UK agreed that purchasing rail tickets online is difficult for elderly and disabled passengers. Perhaps most worryingly is that 17% of passengers feel ‘nervous’ when it comes to purchasing a rail ticket online - a stat that sadly rises to 27% for those with a physical disability.

3. Habits

Despite being considered a ‘digitally-savvy nation’, the UK prefers to do things the old-fashioned way, with nearly half (48%) of passengers interviewed favouring purchasing train tickets at the station rather than via an online app. Official statistics point to this being one third of all rail tickets sold, which on current revenue would equate to around £2.8bn. Perhaps unsurprisingly this amplifies with age, climbing from 26% among 18-24-year-olds to 63% for those aged 65 and over.

This demonstrates the need for Smart Kiosks to be introduced at more stations, which offer the same flexibility in pricing that passengers get from buying online. This will allow passengers to buy their tickets in a familiar format but eliminates the risk of traditional ticket booths being shut or unmanned at stations.

How do we make rail easy?

SilverRail’s technology makes rail easy for rail operators, travel agencies and travellers. Its product suite spans the full customer experience: journey planning, distribution, fulfilment, customer service and data insight.

  • Handle more than 1 billion online rail searches each year
  • Distribute tickets for more than 35 providers and carriers
  • Process more than 30 million bookings each year
  • Serve more than 1,500 corporate customers worldwide

Find out more about our Omnichannel Retailing or get in touch.