Tag Archives: Trains

Roll out of flexi season rail tickets in the UK

There has been much talk of a drop in rail season ticket sales in the UK, whilst overall journeys are increasing. Much of the commentary has been around the change in working patterns where people are working from home more often.

Many shorter distances season tickets are only worthwhile buying if you are travelling 4 or 5 times per week on the same route (or anywhere between those 2 stations). Any less and it can be cheaper to buy tickets on the day, especially if you are a shift worker and some tickets are off-peak, for example with late shifts. Some longer journeys can be worthwhile getting a season ticket if you are doing the journey only 2 days per week, as the working pattern has already been taken into account in the pricing.

Many of the rail franchises have been required to roll out flexi season ticketing. Some operators have special business travel carnet tickets. Both of these can have restrictions meaning that they are only valid on one train operator, unlike the normal season tickets which are normally valid on any operator on the route. There’s some season tickets which are cheaper due to being operator specific where there is competition, partly due to the revenue not being split between operators when going through the Rail Settlement Plan.

Graphs showing change in UK train ticket sales. Source: Office of Rail and Road Passenger Rail Usage 2018-19 Q2 Statistical Release

Is the recent drop in season tickets number in part due to the move to Flexi season tickets with people moving to part time commuting? Do the Flexi season and carnet tickets need to be included in the season ticket numbers or have their own category to show the trend of the switch of ticket type?

I’m also of the view that the Flexi season tickets need to be standardised such that they are available across the whole country to and from any station, and have the same standard rules of validity as ordinary daily and season tickets. We are hopefully now at a turning point where there has been enough trials about how the Flexi season tickets should work, that a wider rollout could be done.

On the pricing of the Flexi season, I’m thinking they should they be a standard multiplier from the standard anytime daily ticket prices meaning that you can easily buy the tickets from any station to any station, rather than them only being available on a limited number of routes.

Another option to reduce the desire or need to Flexi season tickets, would be to reduce the cost or multiplier for season tickets by making season tickets cheaper, especially considering many people are no longer travelling to work 5 days per week, and longer route specific point to point season tickets in the UK are often more expensive than the whole country Bahn Card 100 in Germany. Is it time for a UK equivalent to the German Bahn Card 100 as a means to encourage more public transport use, and reduce private motor vehicle congestion and pollution?

Being a part time commuter (rest of the week working from home), Flexi-tickets are of particular interest to me, including their interoperability across operators since my commute generally involves multiple operators.

Rail fare anomaly between Ipswich and London

I recently seen a at Cambridge station advertising cheap weekend returns to London so I thought I’d check the fare splitting via the longer route.

This is looking at the super off-peak day returns or nearest equivalent.

On the direct Ipswich to London Liverpool Street ticket there is only an off peak return valid for a month at £42.20 or the off peak travelcard for a single day at £47.50.

The most common split is at Manningtree as some trains don’t stop at Colchester.

IPS-MNGOff peak day return£6.60
MNG-LSTSuper off peak day return£29.20
Total£35.80
Saving compared direct fare£6.40

Splitting in Colchester is cheaper:

IPS-COLSuper off peak day return£8.30
COL-LSTSuper off peak day return£25.90
Total£34.20
Saving compared to direct fare£8.00

Weekend return via Cambridge turns out to a whopping £11 cheaper compared to the direct single ticket, or £3 compared to the cheapest split ticket, if returning the same day:

IPS-CBGOff peak day return£18.20
CBG-LSTWeekend Super Off Peak Day Return£13.00

Total£31.20

Saving compared to direct fare£11.00

Saving compared to cheapest direct split£3.00

However this involves a much longer journey time. Ipswich – Cambridge is around 1 hour 20 minutes. There’s one train per hour. Cambridge to Liverpool Street on direct trains takes around 1 hour 26 minutes to 1 hour 38 minutes with 2 trains per hour. Due to the timings, and long layover in Cambridge, particularly towards Ipswich, the total through journey time is around 2 hours 50 minutes towards London and 3 to 4 hours towards Ipswich.

In comparison the typical journey times on the direct route from Ipswich to London on trains stopping at either Manningtree or Colchester is around 1 hour 07 mins to 1 hour 23 minutes. Thus it’s very much faster on the more direct route for a tiny saving. If planning far enough ahead advance fares would be cheaper than the above walk up fares.

Hopefully the current UK rail fares review run by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).