Passengers' awareness of terms and conditions


We commissioned quantitative and focus group research to explore passengers’ awareness of terms and conditions, both in general when travelling by train on the national rail network (the National Rail Conditions of Travel - NRCoT) and specific to ticket type and format.

The purpose of the research was to understand the extent that passengers are aware of terms and conditions and the extent to which they understand them, and also to provide insight into passengers' perception of how 'fair' these are.

Key findings

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  • The majority (84%) of respondents to the survey said they were familiar with the terms and conditions of travelling by train. However, the focus groups highlighted that familiarity may be based more on a common sense assumption rather than actual familiarity.
  • The respondents held the view that the relatively low cost of rail tickets did not merit spending time reading terms and conditions, and 34% said that they had never heard of the NRCoT.
  • The research identified some specific terms and conditions of which passengers’ awareness and understanding levels were low. This included perceived confusing language around season ticket terms and conditions, particularly in relation to refund rights.
  • There was also a concern more generally around ambiguous language, particularly relating to the circumstances in which an administration fee is applied for refunds.
  • There was a mixed response to the question on knowledge of where to find the NRCoT when buying their ticket for their most recent train journey.
  • Off-peak ticket terms and conditions had the lowest awareness overall, including a low level of awareness about the option to break a journey with this ticket type.
  • Overall, the respondents perceived the terms and conditions attached to the different ticket types as fair. However, Advance and Off-peak were perceived as slightly less fair than Season and Anytime tickets, primarily as a result of the greater restrictions attached to them. For example, the fact that Advance tickets are not usually refundable was perceived as unfair.

Next steps

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  • While it is encouraging that the participants appear to understand the basic terms and conditions that apply to their tickets, work is required to inform passengers of more detailed and specific terms and conditions, both for those attached to specific ticket types but also for some conditions in the NRCoT.
  • We will now work with stakeholders in the rail industry to consider options for improving passengers’ awareness and understanding of those terms and conditions which were less well known and understood.
  • This will include identifying opportunities for improving the communication and clarity of these. This will complement work already in progress across the industry such as proposals for fares reform.