Wednesday 2 September 2020 4:11 pm

Boris Johnson confirms rail industry working on flexible season tickets

Boris Johnson today said that the government was working with the rail industry on flexible season tickets to encourage commuters to return to the office.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions today, Johnson said: “We are working at pace with rail companies to try to deliver new products in terms of ticketing to ensure not just better value, but also enable people to get back to work in a flexible way.”

Read more: Government extends emergency agreement for Great Western Railway

The PM’s comments come as the government looks for ways to entice employees back into their workplaces in a bid to get the economy firing again.

For many people, the success of home working over the coronavirus lockdown period means that they will no longer be required to travel to work every day.

In order to meet the change in travel patterns, some rail franchises including Great Western Rail have already submitted proposals to ministers for flexible tickets, as well as multi-buy offers.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) confirmed that it was working with the government on the plans.

Robert Nisbet, the RDG’s director of nations and regions, said: “Train companies fully understand that the way people are working and travelling is changing and that new types of ticket are needed to reflect that. 

Before the Open newsletter: Start your day with the City View podcast and key market data

“We are working with the Department for Transport on proposals for flexible season tickets and will be putting forward suggestions for how this could work very shortly, as well as continuing to push for wide ranging regulatory reform of the entire fares system.”

However, a source in the railway industry cautioned that the new tickets were unlikely to be launched for several months.

The prospect of flexible season tickets also met with approval from business association the London Chamber of Commerce (LCCI).

Chief executive Richard Burge said:  “With social distancing restrictions to office space and many businesses having seen the benefits of home and remote working in practice, it’s clear that not all workers will be returning to central London offices at once. 

“A hybrid of office and remote working is likely for many firms, which is why LCCI welcome the Prime Minister’s confirmation that discussions are happening at pace with rail firms about the introduction of part-week flexible season tickets.  

“These would support a safe and flexible return to public transport and to central office working.  And also help part-time workers and those in job shares.”

Last month commuter watchdog Transport Focus called for such tickets to be introduced as part of broader programme of fares reform to give commuters “better value for money”.

The Telegraph reported that the new type of ticket could be announced this month if the government extends its emergency funding for the railways, as is expected.

Read more: Crossrail opening delayed until 2022 and extra £1.1bn needed to finish project

Despite the government’s return to work push, the number of rail users as of the end of last week stood at just 31 per cent of pre-virus levels, according to Department for Transport statistics.

The figure was marginally higher on the Tube, at 34 per cent, and stood at 55 per cent for bus travel.