Train tickets: flexible rail season tickets offering 15% discount being planned by Government

The new flexible scheme is expected to be rolled out in England in June, according to reports

Flexible rail season tickets which are priced 15% cheaper than peak fares are being planned by the Government and train operators.

The tickets will allow passengers in England to purchase French-style carnet tickets, allowing them to make five return journeys in a month, according to the Daily Telegraph.

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Commuters who want to use the scheme, which is to be rolled out in June, but travel more than once per week would be required to buy additional carnets, which could end up being more expensive than existing monthly passes.

The scheme would benefit those who commute more than once a week (Photo: Getty Images)

A boost for rail travel

Under the proposed plans, a passenger travelling between Brighton and London Victoria purchasing three carnets for three return journeys per week over the course of a month would pay £581.40.

By comparison, a monthly ticket that can be used every day would cost £414.20.

David Sidebottom, director of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said the offer “isn’t a catch-all incentive”.

He explained: “It would provide a better deal for those commuting two days a week, but it’s not suited to three-day-a-week commuters.

“Those passengers need to be incentivised through wider fares reform that matches how more people want to travel in future.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) wants flexible tickets to be introduced as a way of encouraging people back on to the railways, after passenger numbers have fallen significantly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are carnet rail tickets?

A carnet train ticket is suited to commuters who travel regularly on a particular route, but not so often that they would need to buy a season ticket.

Commuters who purchase a carnet will get a book of single tickets, which can be used on any train as and when required, and are usually valid for around three to six months.

The tickets are single rather than return tickets, so those who need to make regular round trips will need to buy a book of carnet tickets for each direction.

Flexible options

Reform of rail ticketing is being designed to be revenue neutral, with price reductions offset by increased demand.

However, the Treasury is reportedly concerned about the financial implications, as the Government’s decision to take on the financial liabilities of franchised operators since March 2020 is expected to cost around £10 billion by mid-2021.

A spokeswoman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: “The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards home working and rail fares need to reflect this, so we’re working with the Government to introduce new flexible tickets as soon as possible.

“As passengers return to trains, wider changes to fares are still urgently needed so that instead of adding extra ticket types for people to choose from before travelling, more commuters can benefit from tap-in, tap-out capping and automatically get the best deal at the end of the week or month.”

A DfT spokeswoman added: “We are committed to providing a more flexible, modern ticketing system for passengers.

“That is why we are looking at ways to make this a reality for commuters, including flexible season tickets. We’ll set out further details in due course.”

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