From ghost trains back to the daily commute? How Covid-19 may have changed our travel habits forever

You can watch a piece by ITV Anglia's Claire McGlasson here about the way rail transport is being changed by Covid.

Rail companies are predicting a major shift in the way we commute following the pandemic. 

Thameslink says people may only go into the office part of the time and there'll be an end to the traditional rush hour as many go in for meetings at different times. It's prompted user groups to call for more flexible ticket options.

At the moment our trains are still eerily quiet. The 10.49 from Bedford is not quite a ghost train…but things are already moving in the right direction.

The 10.49 from Bedford to London still has very few passengers Credit: ITV Anglia

Across Thameslink, passenger numbers are back up to 40 per cent of where they were pre-Covid.

Passengers say it's just nice to be back on a train again and feel life returning to a more normal rhythm.

This train may have been virtually empty but what about when the pandemic's over and everyone is going back out to work?

How will it change the future of rail travel?

The pandemic has left our stations eerily quiet Credit: ITV Anglia

There will be two long-term effects, according to predictions from train companies like Thameslink.

Many people will commute to the office only part of the time - perhaps two or three days a week - working the rest of their hours at home.

And there could be an end to the traditional rush hour as an increasing number travel in for specific meetings at different times of the day.

Tom Salmond helps to run the Hitchin Rail Commuters Facebook Group. More than ever, he says, passengers need choice.

"I mean, you can obviously buy a daily ticket but then the cost of that does add up, the paper carnet system clearly needs to be changed, it's not very user friendly and it will only take you into King's Cross, St Pancras or Moorgate so you need to be able to get a ticket that takes you all the way through central London.

And they will soon be available. Rail companies are currently in discussion with the Department for Transport to introduce new flexible season tickets.

Steve White from Govia Thameslink says train companies are prepared to offer more flexible tickets Credit: ITV Anglia

Steve White, the Chief Operating Officer at Govia Thameslink says rail companies are aiming to become more flexible about season tickets and travel times for commuters.

Pre-Covid, rail companies could rely on commuters travelling for necessity. But in a world where many will have the option to work at home, it seems they'll have to do more to persuade us to buy a ticket and take the train.