Pricing and ticketing

Cheaper rail and easing the booking of cross-border and multi-modal journeys is critical for citizens to shift from air and road to rail transport.

Towards more affordable rail

T&E believes that the decarbonisation of the transport sector cannot be achieved without ensuring that clean transport solutions are affordable to all. Rail (like all public transport) plays a key role in providing basic, affordable mobility to people who have no access to individual transport modes.

But today, rail can be very expensive. It is often a barrier for families who wish to shift from road to rail and for travelers looking to opt for rail travel rather than air.Greenpeace recently looked at 112 connections in Europe and found that rail tickets are on average 2 times more expensive than air tickets. 

T&E wants to correct the imbalance between transport modes by promoting the internalisation of external costs so that modes pay for the climate damage that they cause. This would ultimately narrow the ticket price gap between air and rail. 

T&E welcomes the several initiatives in European countries to reduce the price of rail. In Spain and Germany (Germany recently introduced a €49 yearly ticket giving unlimited access to the country’s rail network) both governments have decided to strongly subsidize regional and local transport allowing citizens to shift from road to rail. In Belgium, the government has decided to bear the cost of track access charges and energy of night trains with at least one stop in Belgium.

Both the EU and Member States can help achieve a fairer pricing for rail by acting on the VAT, Track Access Charges (TAC), energy costs and station charges. In 2023, T&E and Back on Track found in their briefing that setting a 0% rate of value-added tax (VAT) on cross-border night routes and reducing the track access charges (TAC) can lower the ticket prices for night trains by between 3% and 48% depending on the passenger profile. 

Facilitating the booking of cross-border and multimodal tickets

The European Commission has stated its wish to improve the research and the booking of cross-border and multimodal tickets (Multimodal Digital Mobility Services Regulation). To support the European Green Deal, this regulation must enable consumers to seamlessly combine low carbon transport modes such as rail and bus across borders. One of the barriers faced by consumers to travel cross-border by rail is the lack of ticket information shared by rail operators to booking platforms, forcing them to do burdensome multiple ticket bookings. This is particularly relevant to business travelers, who are increasingly looking for more sustainable travel options, but often encounter obstacles. 

T&E thinks that the EU must mandate all rail operators to fairly allow independent bookings platforms to sell their rail tickets. This would facilitate the life of citizens when traveling abroad and would also allow rail companies to better fill their trains.

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