Many train passengers find selecting and buying tickets confusing and frustrating, a survey by rail regulators have revealed.
Some travellers struggle to understand the validity and restrictions of tickets while others have difficulty finding and buying the most cost-effective fares.
Train companies should provide better ticket information, said the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) which conducted the survey. More than 1,600 rail passengers were questioned on trains, online and as part of focus groups about their experiences of choosing and buying rail tickets.
The survey highlighted a varied understanding of different types of ticket - including knowing the real meaning of terminology such as "peak", "off-peak" and "advanced" ticket types. More than 50% of online respondents agreed it was "a bit of a lottery as to whether you find the best price for a rail journey or not".
Some 45% said the fare system was too complicated for them to understand and 41% of online respondents said they had previously purchased tickets and later found they could have made the journey on cheaper tickets.
ORR chairman Anna Walker said: "If passengers do not have the information they need, they can end up paying more than is necessary or find themselves being penalised for having the wrong ticket. Lack of clarity or certainty that they are getting the right ticket can also undermine ... trust in the railways."
Ms Walker said ORR had been working hard with train companies on the question of ticketing and that she was pleased with the progress being made. But she added that there was more work to be done.
Rail Performance Minister Norman Baker said: "Passengers should be able to confidently choose from a range of fares, finding the best one for their journey without having to understand every nuance of the fares structure. When people do decide to travel by rail, they want a train ticket, not a lottery ticket."
David Sidebottom, director of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will be pleased to see the rail industry's attempts to dispel the haze of uncertainty that surrounds some rail ticket purchases."
Association of Train Operating Companies chief executive Michael Roberts said: "A lot has been done to make things as straightforward as possible for passengers and we are committed to doing better."