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Finnish railways to unveil airline-style ticketing

Finnish state railways VR will unveil its new pricing structure on Wednesday, as it moves closer to an airline-style ticketing system. Discounts and special offers will be offered to those willing to travel when trains are less busy, but cheap tickets will not be available on rush-hour services.

Mies ja nainen ostavat junalippuja automaateista rautatieasemalla.
Image: YLE

The company is prepared for questions and confusion from customers as the new ticket prices are published.

VR invites passengers to look at the options now on offer. Neither the company nor its ticket offices wanted to comment on the new pricing structure in advance, such was the delicate nature of the changes.

The new ticketing system has been in development for several years, and the new prices under consideration for the last year.

Commuters will have to calculate the implications of the new system carefully. The options for commuters have been a 30-day or annual season ticket, or a bulk purchase of tickets for a specific route at a discount.

Some commutes will become cheaper, while some will cost more. Season tickets for the Intercity and high-speed Pendolino trains will be merged, with the new price somewhere between the two previous ones. Intercity season ticket holders will have to pay more than before, while Pendolino commuters will save a little.

Season tickets will also now be available for periods from two weeks to one year. Buying season tickets for many months at a time is likely to pay off.

”We have calculated that customers who travel to work by train will have the opportunity to make significant savings over the course of a year,” said VR’s passenger transport sales director Lassi Rönkkönen.

”Dynamic pricing and discounts will be attractive”

Advance tickets will be cheaper, and the same is true for tickets for unpopular services. If passengers need to catch a certain train at a certain time, on the other hand, they should be prepared to fork out more money.

Rönkkönen predicts a cultural shift heralded by the new, airline-style pricing structure. Once VR begins tempting customers with offers and discounts for early booking, interest in train transport is likely to increase.

”In aviation this has been to the advantage of the customer,” Rönkkönen claimed.

The government wants an increase in environmentally friendly rail travel. VR itself is targeting a one percentage point increase in market share over the next ten years. Rail’s current share of travel is five percent, while private cars take 85 percent. A one percentage point increase would mean a one-fifth increase in rail passengers.

At present the train is clearly a more expensive option for car owners than driving. For example, the cost of petrol for a return drive between Helsinki and Lahti is the same as a train ticket for one leg of the journey.

From the ticket hall to the web

VR’s revamped web shop will also be unveiled on Wednesday. Passengers will be able to purchase all ticket types and even choose their seat from the online store.

Sticks as well as carrots are driving passengers to the internet for their ticket purchases. Ticket halls in Finnish stations already lack enough staff to ensure that all queueing customers can be served before rush-hour trains leave.

VR struggles with online demand for cheaper rail tickets

Sources: YLE

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