King's Cross Station

Flexible rail season tickets offering 15% discount planned

King's Cross Station

Flexible rail season tickets which are 15% cheaper than peak fares are being planned by the Government and rail operators, a national newspaper reports.

Passengers in England will be able to purchase French-style carnet tickets allowing them to make five return journeys in a month under a new system to be rolled out in June, according to the Daily Telegraph.

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Commuters who want to use the scheme but travel more than once per week would be required to purchase additional carnets, which could end up being more expensive than existing monthly passes.

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Under the plan, someone travelling between Brighton and London Victoria buying three carnets for three return journeys per week over a month would pay £581.40, whereas a monthly ticket that can be used every day is £414.40.

David Sidebottom, director of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said the offer “isn’t a catch-all incentive”.

He went on: “It would provide a better deal for those commuting two days a week, but it’s not suited to three-day-a-week commuters.

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“Those passengers need to be incentivised through wider fares reform that matches how more people want to travel in future.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) wants flexible tickets to be introduced as a way of encouraging people back on to the railways following the collapse in passenger numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Reform of rail ticketing is being designed to be revenue neutral, with price reductions offset by increased demand.

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But the Treasury is reportedly concerned about the financial implications, as the Government’s decision to take on the financial liabilities of franchised operators since March 2020 is expected to cost around £10 billion by mid-2021.

A spokeswoman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: “The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards home working and rail fares need to reflect this, so we’re working with the Government to introduce new flexible tickets as soon as possible.

“As passengers return to trains, wider changes to fares are still urgently needed so that instead of adding extra ticket types for people to choose from before travelling, more commuters can benefit from tap-in, tap-out capping and automatically get the best deal at the end of the week or month.”

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A DfT spokeswoman said: “We are committed to providing a more flexible, modern ticketing system for passengers.

“That is why we are looking at ways to make this a reality for commuters, including flexible season tickets. We’ll set out further details in due course.”

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Sam Hewitt

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