Friday 16 April 2021 9:22 am

Rail firms to launch flexible season tickets to lure commuters back to city centres

Ministers and rail chiefs are finalising a new system of flexible season tickets designed to entice commuters back to city centres as the shift to hybrid working takes off.

Cost concerns mean the discounts will be much less generous than for traditional season tickets, to spare the taxpayer from further expenses, the Telegraph has revealed.

Rail firms will roll out French-style “carnet tickets” which will allow passengers to five return journeys per month at discount of 15 per cent on peak fares.

A spokesperson for London TravelWatch, the city’s transport watchdog, said: “Season tickets, already falling in demand pre-Covid, will need to reflect the flexible, part-time work pattern of many passengers.

“They will also need to be attractive enough to ensure that public – rather than private – transport remains the default option for those who travel.”

Under the proposals, a commuter planning to travel into work one day a week for a month could buy one of these tickets.

If a passenger wanted to commute for two or three days a week, they would buy additional carnets.

However, the system may disappoint some workers planning a flexible future because savings are much less than for standard season tickets.

The cost of travelling three days a week on carnet tickets would actually be more expensive than buying a standard monthly season ticket on typical routes.

For example, based on a £45.60 standard fare between London and Brighton, each carnet will cost £193.80.

Industry sources said that plans for larger discounts were blocked by the Treasury due to concerns that transport spending was getting out of control.

Taxpayers have paid rail operators £10bn in subsidies over the last year to keep services running for key workers.

The new plans come as Boris Johnson battles to get workers back onto public transport. The scheme will be rolled out across the rail network in June.