Flexible season tickets go on sale in England for part-time commuters

Passengers at Waterloo Credit: PA

Flexible train season tickets in England will go on sale on Monday as part of an overhaul of rail travel.

The new scheme offers discounts on certain routes for those who travel two or three days a week.

Two-days-a-week commuters using flexible season tickets could save more than £260 a year travelling from Woking to London, £230 from Liverpool to Manchester, and £170 from Stafford to Birmingham, according to Department for Transport (DfT) analysis.

A passenger travelling to work three days per week from Chelmsford to Stratford, east London, could save in excess of £350.

The savings are compared with the cost of daily tickets.

The paperless flexible tickets, which can be used from June 28, will allow travel on any eight days in a 28-day period.

The paperless tickets will allow travel on any eight days in a 28-day period. Credit: PA

Passengers can use an updated season ticket calculator at National Rail to find out which ticket they should purchase based on their route and working pattern.

To encourage more people to travel by rail, train companies will allow passengers who buy an Advance ticket for a specific train to rebook or receive rail vouchers without an admin fee until the end of the year if their plans change.

The changes are the first step in major reforms of the railways announced last month in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, based on the shared vision of Keith Williams, the independent Chair of the Rail Review, and Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport.

They are the first step in major reforms of the railways announced last month in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Our railways work best when they are reliable, rapid and affordable.

“As we kickstart the biggest reforms to our railways in a generation, flexible season tickets are the first step. They give us greater freedom and choice about how we travel, simpler ticketing and a fairer fare.

“With a season ticket calculator to see which option works best for you, and a book with confidence guarantee to make journeys stress-free, the future of fares is flexible.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the future of train fares is "flexible." Credit: PA

The introduction of flexible tickets comes amid changing travel patterns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An increase in home working has led to a huge decline in the number of people travelling by rail, particularly those commuting by train five days a week.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group – which represents train operators, said: “We’ve worked with government to introduce the new Flexi Season ticket, which goes on sale today, to give commuters the freedom and flexibility to divide their time between home and the office.

“The rail industry is helping people travel and book with confidence by providing better journey information, boosting cleaning and helping them change a booked journey fee free should their circumstances change.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Our research with passengers showed us there was strong demand for a new ticket that suited people who expected to commute less frequently in future.

“This is a positive step towards much-needed longer-term reform of how rail tickets are sold.”

Tickets offering discounts for part-time commuters were already available in Scotland and Wales.

The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail will lead to the creation of a new public sector body named Great British Railways (GBR), which will own and manage rail infrastructure, issue contracts to private firms to run trains, set most fares and timetables, and sell tickets.

Rail franchises were effectively ended when the government took over the financial liabilities of operators in March 2020 to keep services running amid the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, at a cost of £12 billion.

The emergency agreements will be replaced by passenger service contracts, with GBR contracting private firms to operate trains.