Trainline profiteering from passengers and ticket office closures

Trainline profiteering from passengers and ticket office closures

27 October 2023

RMT Press Office:

Rail union, RMT hit out today at Trainline for relentless profiteering at the expense of passengers, taxpayers and the ticket office closure programme.

The popular train app which allows passengers to book tickets for railway journeys charges a booking fee and a 5% commission on single and return tickets sold.

Trainline has admitted that its search criteria does not prioritise the cheapest ticket and does not automatically identify all the fares available for the journey.

This means that if a journey is cheaper but departs later, is longer, or requires more changes, it will not be selected to be shown.

The latest half year results for 2023/24 show that Trainline is on track to generate revenue of £200m this year from UK ticket sales.

Yet train operating companies and the government want to save £100m from the closure of all ticket offices.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "Private companies and contractors that are operating within the railways are making a killing while the government is pushing for the closure of all ticket offices.

"Trainline has a vested interest in seeing ticket offices close and has even suggested that such a move would be a "possible tailwind" for the company.

"Half the revenue Trainline is expected to make this year could be used to help fund the railways properly, instead of the cost cutting agenda train operators have embarked upon with the ticket office closure programme.

"Passengers do not want algorithms in apps giving them the ticket that the companies want you to buy so they can make the most profit.

"They need ticket office staff who can recommend the best and cheapest ticket as well as making the railway a safe and secure place for all to go about their travels."






Trainline website “Our search ranking criteria is based upon the departure time and the fastest available journeys with the smallest number of changes (which includes all direct services of comparable duration).  We highlight the cheapest within these results. No other ranking criteria, remuneration or other conditions are considered. Our results are organized to highlight the ones we consider to be the most relevant based on the criteria highlighted above and show the cheapest price within those results.” 

In 2023, the CEO of Trainline received total remuneration of £1.71m, up nearly 9% from the year previous. The company also reported a profit of £22m and announced a shareholder buyback programme for the next year of up to £50m.   

Trainline has a vested interest in ticket offices being closed and describes shifts to online and mobile ticketing as a ‘significant structural tailwind’. Similarly, an investment fund recommend clients purchase Trainline shares in September 2023, stating that ‘closure of some UK rail ticket offices are a possible tailwind’.

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