Changes bring extra benefits for rail passengers
1. September 2011 News and current issues
More options on price and new services will become available to users of rail travel as from 14 September, when VR starts to phase in its new rail ticket pricing system. Travellers will have greater choice in the price of a single rail journey, for there will be more special offers and the Advance purchases ticket, which has a lower price than other tickets, will become a permanent part of the ticket range.
The range of online services is expanding, and new ways to purchase rail journeys are being introduced. The names of the travel classes on trains are also changing, and at the same time the price of the present Business class ticket is coming down. The changes being made now are the first step towards a model in which demand drives the pricing for an individual train. Online sales – an easy way to buy tickets and services VR’s website vr.fi and the upgraded online sales system will provide a wider range of services for rail travellers. It will now be possible to purchase tickets not only for travel in Finland but also for journeys to Russia, and to buy the popular car-train transport packages.
A new feature requested by customers in online sales will be the seat map, so travellers can choose where they sit on their journey. People who travel regularly will also be able to make free seat reservations on-line for multi-journey tickets, and it will also be possible to purchase tickets for bicycles and pets online. Buying a train ticket online will be even more convenient, for a greater range of tickets can be sent to customers to their email or mobile phone. Comparing timetables and prices will be easier when buying a ticket online. As from September passengers can register for the new customer program. Customers who sign up will receive information about services and special offers, and it will simplify doing business in various sales channels. Registered customers can also take part in developing VR’s services and will receive travel tips and benefits. Another new feature on VR’s website is the ‘Trains on the map’ service, which shows where trains are in real time. A test version was opened to customers in June, and this has been developed in cooperation with customers over the summer.
Low-cost rail journeys with Advance tickets and special offers The changes will make lower cost rail journeys available. The Advance purchase ticket is cheaper than other tickets and can be purchased online up to 60 days and no less than 7 days before the date of travel. The earlier the ticket is bought, the cheaper the price. VR will introduce more campaigns and special offers in the various sales channels, so that travellers can even make savings of more than fifty per cent. The Business ticket becomes the Flexible ticket, and the price is being reduced by ten per cent. As the new name implies, the ticket has the most flexible terms, so that after buying a ticket for a journey travellers can change it for a corresponding journey with no extra charge. The ticket can be purchased through all sales channels. What is now the second class ticket changes its name to the Basic ticket, which is the standard ticket for single rail journeys and can also be purchased through all sales channels. Children, students and pensioners will still receive 50 per cent discounts on Flexible and Basic tickets.
New names for travel classes
The names of the travel classes on the trains are changing. Business class becomes the Extra class and second class will be the Eco class. The new Flexible ticket will be sold for the Extra class, and the benefits of the ticket include coffee or tea with a light snack, extra leg room and free daily newspapers. Travellers in Eco class can purchase the same services as those available in the second class at present. Changes to the season tickets for commuters mean that customers can decide the travel period for themselves, anything between 14 and 365 days, whatever suits them best. The ticket can be valid for all trains, for regional and express trains, or for trains in travel zones. Season tickets can also now be sent to the customer’s email address or mobile phone. The terms for making changes to rail tickets have been standardized, but at the same time they have in part become more restrictive.
A ticket is only valid on the train for which it has been purchased. If customers travel on a different train than that on their ticket, they will be sold a new ticket. A refund will be given for the original ticket in accordance with the terms of the ticket. Passengers should check the terms of their ticket and make any changes if possible before travelling. New ways to purchase train tickets Travellers can now also purchase train tickets from VR’s contact center. Previously they could book a ticket from VR’s contact center and then had to collect and pay for the ticket at an R-kiosk, station or ticket machine.
Now customers can pay for their journey during their phone call by credit card, and the ticket is sent to their email or mobile phone. Train tickets can also still be purchased in several other ways: from station ticket offices, ticket vending machines, conductors on trains and travel agencies, and by booking from the contact center and paying on different channels. Tickets can be sent to customers in different ways, for example a ticket purchased at a station ticket office can now also be sent to the customer’s mobile phone.
Paying for a rail journey in advance is cheaper than paying for it on the train. New look for rail ticket The sales system for ticket sales and services is also gradually being upgraded in September. Customers will notice the changes in the new interfaces for online sales and on ticket machines and in the new rail tickets. The new tickets are narrower and thinner than the old tickets.
All tickets will also have a 2D barcode, which will simplify ticket inspection on trains. The new tickets and tickets purchased before 14 September will both be valid on trains during the transition period over the next few weeks. During the period while the sales system is being introduced, the opening hours for stations may differ from their normal hours and there may be delays in service. New services and pricing are being phased in The volume of eco-friendly rail travel has increased steadily in the past few years, and VR is developing the services on trains and pricing to further raise its popularity.
The changes in pricing will be phased in over a period of several years. VR is now trying to steer demand increasingly through its pricing, since the construction of extra railway lines, which would make it possible to increase the number of trains especially in Southern Finland, is unlikely in the near future. Demand for some trains, especially during rush hours, is very high and some trains are crowded. VR’s goal is to improve travel comfort and create more space on rush hour trains by offering customers the opportunity also to choose the most suitably priced train.
Train travel reforms to be launched on 14 September: More fare alternatives Low-cost travel with tickets purchased in advance: the Advance ticket and special offers New tickets and travel classes: 2nd Class is now Eco Class and the normal train ticket is now the Basic ticket Business Class is now Extra Class and the class train ticket is now the Flexible ticket More flexible season tickets, the period of validity is 14-365 days A wider range of online services: For instance CarTrain packages, tickets for services to Russia and online seat selection Possibility to sign up for VR's customer loyalty program New ways to purchase tickets, now also by phone.