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Rail ticketing reforms must wait until technology improves, warns Chris Grayling

Work to simplify the rail ticketing system may not be carried out for several years, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has revealed.

Technology for allowing payment by mobile phone, contactless cards and smart cards should be developed before "some of the oddities in the ticketing system" are dealt with, he said.

Smart ticketing is not set to be rolled out until the end of 2018.

In October the Commons' Transport Select Committee published a damning report which stated that "unfairness, complexity and a lack of transparency" in rail ticketing have been apparent for at least a decade.

It found that the industry uses "incomprehensible jargon", has vending machines which do not always offer the cheapest fares, and requires passengers to be "in the know or prepared to undertake onerous research" to make savings by splitting tickets.

Progress towards addressing these issues has been "far too slow", the committee added.

But Mr Grayling said enabling everyone commuting into the UK's major towns and cities to pay for their travel by smartcards was a bigger priority.

Speaking at an event held by the Policy Exchange think tank in central London, he said: " There's no doubt that there are complexities on ticketing and Paul Maynard (rail minister) is looking at ticketing issues at the moment.

"But actually sorting out our ticketing structure has to come after we've sorted out the technology.

"To get a really good smartcard system working, to get a barcode system working, is in my mind a prerequisite to then sorting out some of the oddities in the ticketing system.

"That needs to be done, but I think we need the technological foundations to do it with and that's why the technology has to come first."

Campaign for Better Transport executive director Stephen Joseph told the Press Association that smartcards "probably won't work anyway" and claimed passengers should not have to wait for the ticketing structure to be simplified.

Asked if he was disappointed by Mr Grayling's comments, he replied: "Yes. We think that we can and should simplify the system and produce flexible ticketing for part-time workers.

"We shouldn't wait for the technology for that.

"We can get on and do some things now and get them built into the next franchises."

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