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Flexible tickets for a flexible workforce

Darren Shirley's picture

The Government has indicated that rail passengers could be set to finally have the option to buy flexible season tickets. The introduction of part-time season tickets would see the conclusion of a campaign we began back in 2014 to get part-time commuters a better deal. 

Since we first called for a season ticket that would give people who commute less than five days a week an equivalent discount to the standard season ticket there have been rumours, trials and promises, but little in the way of actual tickets. But that could be about to change with the Government’s latest, and clearest indication, that it wants rail companies to come up with flexible season tickets as soon as possible.

Working patterns have been changing for the last decade, with flexible working - allowing people to work from home part of the week so that they come into the physical workplace less - becoming the norm in many industries and more people opting to reduce their overall working hours due to caring or other commitments. Add to this the overnight change in working patterns brought on by the Covid-19 crisis - which some argue will change the way we work forever - and commuter tickets which more accurately reflect modern commutes are long overdue.

There are still decisions to be made about what constitutes a ‘flexible season ticket’, but what should not be in dispute is that they must offer an equivalent discount to full-time season tickets. Previous ‘carnet schemes’, which were supposed to offer people commuting part time a better deal, have fallen short and were not widely taken up as they tended to offer little in the way of savings.

Over the years we’ve heard from hundreds of people who have been left out of pocket by the season ticket system and many whose job options have been severely impacted by the lack of an affordable commute.

"I want to reduce my working hours. As a nurse of 30 years standing I am now in my mid-50s and exhausted. But I cannot afford to reduce my weekly working hours against a monthly cost of £422 for travel." - Joanne

"I work part time since having my son. I now work four days a week, one day at home and three in London, meaning a commute from Oxfordshire to Paddington. I find it frustrating that my options are to pay a full-price peak return daily fare or a season ticket for travel seven days per week when all I need is a regular three-day per week option. The time for the rail companies to seriously consider the requirements of their passengers does seem long overdue.” - Caroline

"When I dropped down to part-time after having my son I lost a large amount of salary, yet I save nothing on my travel as I'm still forced to purchase a full-time season ticket. When you add the cost of childcare on top of travel it's a large chunk of income that people like me are losing." - Kimberley

With many more people set to be commuting part time from now on, and the need to encourage people back onto the trains in order to avoid an increase in congestion and air pollution, to begin to kick start the economy post-Covid, the case for flexible season tickets has only grown. We now need the Government and train companies to deliver a product across the rail network that provides value for money and flexibility to ensure it is an attractive option to the millions who need to commute part time.

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