Destination: Revenue Growth 

27 March 2024

The Railway Industry Association’s (RIA’s) ‘Destination: Revenue Growth’ report examines the landscape of UK  rail’s current ticketing and retail offer. It analyses the gaps between the Government’s aspirations, policy and implementation; and it makes a number of key ‘asks’ to overcome those gaps, with the goal of enhancing the customer experience and boosting ridership, to drive revenue growth without increasing ticket prices.

The current UK mainline ticketing offer is the result of many years of patchwork development, a mix of legacy and modern systems. During those years, a combination of rail privatisation, devolution, and oft-changing political vision, leadership, and strategy have all contributed to this piecemeal approach. The immediate impact is that the railway system in the UK falls far short of customer expectations, putting many potential customers off. Knock-on effects include elevated costs to the taxpayer and under-utilised assets.

Recent research commissioned by RIA and conducted by the independent Steer consultancy shows that the right customer offering could contribute to growth in passenger numbers of between 37% and 97% by 2050. As customer experience is linked to ridership, this represents a much missed opportunity to maximise revenue, minimise subsidy, and accelerate decarbonisation.

In contrast, Transport for London (TfL), with stable leadership, a strong vision, forethought and the autonomy to implement, have created a system highly-regarded both by those who use it, and on the international stage. Pioneering ‘contactless’ ticketing has earnt the trust of the travelling public in and around the capital, and contributed significantly to ridership and revenue growth. Conversely, national mainline rail ticketing is often mistrusted by the public, having a deleterious impact on ridership and revenue.

Government policy has identified the same concerns. The cornerstone of the current Rail Reform agenda, the so-called ‘Plan for Rail’, makes a number of promises on rail retail. However, RIA has identified several shortcomings in the proposals for rail retail implementation, and these will need to be resolved to meet desired Rail Reform outcomes.

In addition, the blueprint discussed in ‘Destination: Revenue Growth’ charts a timeline of recent Government U-turns and indecision, which arguably makes it impossible for any entity – private or state – to plan for a better future.

We conclude by making four recommendations, or key ‘asks’, which we believe will need to be delivered on if the shortcomings identified in the ‘Destination: Revenue Growth’ paper are to be overcome and the Government enabled to achieve its stated goals.

Key Messages 

  1. A Stable National Vision. There needs to be a stable national vision for the future of rail retail. Without it, it is impossible to implement long-term policy, strategy, and the leadership necessary to achieve it, in the years ahead.
  2. Standardised and Specified Interfaces. Interfaces between different ticketing ecosystems, across transport modes and constituencies, need to be standardised in a way which both allows interoperability and enables innovation.
  3. A Level Playing Field. There needs to be a level playing field for all, including access to all core data, fares, and features, to achieve the vision of an environment supportive of rail retailers and one which encourages competition and accelerated 
    innovation for the customer’s benefit.
  4. Common Contractual Frameworks. Multimodal Common Contractual Frameworks need to be established, but not mandated. These would provide a clear structure within which Mobility Service Providers could operate, fostering an environment conducive to new entrants, inter-modality, innovation and collaboration.


Download the Report

“In the future, ideally ticketing would be personalised, fully integrated with other modes of transport, and made more efficient and userfriendly. This would require standardisation of both the back end and the front end of ticketing systems.” 

Case Studies

1. PA Consulting - click here to download

2.  JurnyOn- click here to download

3. Wordline - click here to download