Britain’s biggest train company is offering cheaper rail tickets to encourage more commuters to return to offices on Mondays and Fridays.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said it has started selling Advance tickets for travel on some of its Southern services during peak morning and evening periods on those days, saving passengers up to 15%.
The move comes after the Covid pandemic sparked a major change in travel patterns, prompting many commuters to only commute to offices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
GTR said it only carries around 210,000 passengers on Mondays during peak morning services, whereas it can carry between 230,000 and 250,000 on each of the middle three days of the working week. On Fridays – which were a quieter day even before the pandemic – the figure drops to around 160,000.
Advance tickets – which are cheaper than walk-up fares – have previously only been available for off-peak services to cater for leisure passengers, but they have been made available at some stations as part of a trial and can be bought up to 12 weeks in advance.
Passengers can buy advance tickets in both directions between three major London stations – Victoria, Clapham Junction and East Croydon – and stations south from Three Bridges in West Sussex. This extends as far east as Eastbourne in East Sussex and as far west as Chichester in West Sussex.
GTR gave the example of a return journey for a commuter based in Worthing on the south coast, travelling to London Victoria. The cheapest Advance peak ticket on that route is £28.10.
The total price for two of those – needed to make a return journey – is £56.20, some 15% cheaper than the £66.20 cost of an Anytime Day Return. Advance ticket-holders must travel on a specific service, whereas passengers who buy an Anytime Day Return fare can catch any train.
GTR is also trialling a loyalty scheme that allows ticket-buyers to collect points which can then be used to redeem various rewards, such as days out, cinema tickets and coffee.
The company’s customer services director Jenny Saunders said: “We’ve seen a sea change in travel habits because of the pandemic. Mondays and Fridays are unsurprisingly less popular with our customers because they bookend the week, but our trains are quieter as a result so we want more people to use them.
“Lower ticket prices, coupled with Southern’s new loyalty rewards scheme, will encourage people back to rail at times when we have more space on board, and they’ll help with the rising cost of living. We really hope both trials will be a success.”
GTR runs Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Great Northern services, carrying more passengers than any other operator in Britain.
The Department for Transport has tight control over the financial decisions of most train operators in England after taking on their costs and revenue risks to maintain services since the start of the pandemic.