Could Norfolk trial new rail fare system?

Confusion over the cost of rail travel will look to be addressed today when the coalition government announces plans to simplify the fares structure.

Transport secretary Phillip Hammond is set to announce the end of complex ticketing arrangements in a major review of the rail industry.

However, concern has been raised about proposals that could raise the cost of off-peak fares and lower rush- hour prices.

The changes, triggered by a value-for-money review by Sir Roy McNulty, could also mean that the new operator of the Greater Anglia rail franchise would not only run services, but could be made responsible for the section of track it uses.

Measures announced in the report will include a call to slash �1bn from the more than �5bn cost of running Britain's railways by reducing staffing and wage levels.

The report will also suggest that efficiencies could be made by putting train companies in charge of the railway network, instead of Network Rail, and ending the confusion over who runs the railways.

The Norwich-London mainline and Greater Anglia franchise, which is set to have a new operator by next February could trial the new setup, according to reports.

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The McNulty review will also end the anomaly that exists where two single tickets cost less than a return for the same journey. However, a planned 3pc rise in rail travel in January 2012 is still on the cards.

John Peacock, spokesman for the Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group, said current ticketing arrangements were 'absolutely horrendous' and it worked out about �20 cheaper to buy three individual tickets between Norwich, Thetford, Peterborough, and Nottingham stations than buying a single ticket between Norwich and Nottingham.

'This country has the most complicated and complex fares in the whole of Europe and any scheme that simplifies fares will be welcomed by everyone. It got quite bad under British Rail and it has got worse under privatisation. We seem to go to great lengths to make it as difficult as possible and that limits demand,' he said.

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, added that any changes must result in an 'affordable, punctual and frequent railway.'

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