The government needs to go further when it comes to rail ticketing reform and “rip up the rulebook”, or else businesses will suffer, a trade body has warned today.
Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the newly announced flexible season tickets, but said the whole fares system needed revamping for the “hybrid work” age.
“It is positive the government has recognised the need to improve the system, but the flexibility and savings offered by the new scheme do not go anywhere near far enough”, she said.
“To power the country’s post-Covid economic recovery, businesses need access to the widest possible pool of talent to fuel their reopening and expansion plans. Our new flexible working patterns will allow more people to thrive in work – but they must be supported by equally flexible and more affordable fares and ticketing.
“Hybrid ways of working are here to stay so the archaic and complicated ticket pricing system needs to catch up – and fast. To make the system fit for purpose, we need to rip up the rulebook and start again.”
This week’s introduction of flexible season tickets, which allow passengers to travel 8 days out of 28, has met with a mixed reception.
Although most have welcomed the move, some groups have criticised the size of the discount such tickets offer compared to normal season tickets.
Rail body National Rail said that such tickets guarantee a 20 per cent discount on normal fares, but in some cases, a normal season ticket offers a better deal.
Norman Baker, the former Liberal Democrat transport minister, and now an adviser to the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The projected growth in hybrid working has made this an urgent issue. The test will be whether the discounts offered entice people on to rail.
“Unfortunately, these new flexible tickets do not appear to offer the kind of savings we had hoped for and are not comparable to the discounts for people commuting full-time.”