Rail row with a difference as commuters shift to working from home

Credit: PA

Forget the usual annual argument about rail fares, this time it's different.

Customers are not just arguing about prices. This time around some believe the tickets themselves are wrong.

Research from passenger group Transport Focus suggests that two-thirds of commuters are now considering working from home. 

Many employees are only going into the office a few days a week, or at irregular intervals.  

Old-style season tickets - running Monday to Friday - simply do not fit many people's new working patterns.  

  • Louise Coward from Transport Focus outlines how the pandemic has hit industry:

Watchdog Transport Focus is calling for part-time and off-peak season tickets, and for discounted bundles of advance tickets - known as "carnet".

Rail passenger numbers have sunk by 70% across the network, with 95% of fares income lost during the strictest coronavirus lockdown. 

The industry accepts that more flexibility in ticketing is now overdue, but says implementing a new system will take time.

People are being asked to avoid buying tickets at the station where possible and order them online in advance. Credit: PA images

There are tens of thousands of different ticket types and a complex range of IT systems to be updated, but the changes to work patterns have been taking shape for months and firms are under growing pressure to take action.

Of course, there are the usual concerns about potential price rises.

New Year increases usually match July's inflation rate (RPI), which on Wednesday was published at 1.6%.

  • Robert Nisbet from the Rail Delivery Group says the system needs reforming:

Although the rises would be the smallest in four years, they come at a time when government and train firms seek to encourage people back to rail.

Below are some examples of what the fare rises would mean for some sample journeys, comparing the current price with what it would be after the January 2021 increase to the nearest pound.

  • Brighton – London: £4,980 / £5,060 / £80

  • Leeds – Manchester: £3,364 / £3,418 / £54

  • Gloucester – Birmingham: 4,356 / £4,426 / £70

  • Glasgow Central – Edinburgh: £4,200 / £4,267 / £67

  • Newport – Bristol Temple Meads: £2,768 / £2,812 / £44

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: "We expect any rail fare rise to be the lowest in four years come January and any increase will go straight to ensuring crucial investment in our railways.

'Covid-19 has had a huge impact on how people work and travel, which is why it’s important we make sure the railways offer more convenient and better-value options for everyone."