Flexible transport scheme receives mixed reviews

Business groups in the UK have welcomed the launch today of flexible season tickets, hailing the forward-looking approach a win for hybrid workers as well as for the climate.

Under the new system, the Department for Transport said 2 and 3 day-a-week passengers will have "greater control" over their commute, promising "potential savings of hundreds of pounds". Flexi Season Tickets are valid for 28-days and allow travel on any 8 days within that period. An online season ticket calculator has also been launched to help passengers find the cheapest option for the new flexible season tickets, which go on sale from today and can be used from 28th June.

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “CBI members have told us that hybrid working is likely to be the long-term norm for many firms, with employees splitting their week between home and onsite working.

“It is, therefore, essential that public transport networks reflect these new habits. The introduction of flexible season tickets will help to ensure rail travel remains an affordable and realistic option for commuters while future-proofing a network which has a key role to play in the UK’s decarbonisation ambitions.”

The Chartered Management Institute said the move was precisely what the changing workforce needed at this time. Chief executive, Ann Francke, said: “The CMI welcomes today’s announcement by the Department of Transport - it’s exactly the sort of forward-looking policy which will empower employees and employers to grasp the opportunities technology and hybrid working offer.

“Employers need to develop flexible bespoke ways of working for their employees but we also need to see products, such as adaptable season tickets, which cater for the changing needs of the workforce.

“CMI’s research found almost half of managers fear team members will leave their jobs if they’re not allowed to continue homeworking once current restrictions are relaxed. We also know that over half of managers (56%) want to work just one to two days a week in the workplace, so there is a clear need for this kind of flexible commuting.

“Hybrid working allows some people, for example those with caring responsibilities, to take on roles they wouldn't be able to consider otherwise. Today's announcement is another step in normalising flexibility for inclusion.”

Not quite as it seems?

The scheme has attracted as much criticism today as it has praise. Norman Baker from Campaign for Better Transport, said that after years of campaigning, these new flexible tickets do not appear to offer the kind of savings they had hoped for and are not comparable to the discounts for people commuting full time.

"There appears to be no standard level of discount and in some cases the flexible season ticket could end up being more expensive than the day return option.

“The projected growth in hybrid working has made this an urgent issue and to avoid an increase in commuting by car we need to encourage people back on board trains. The test will be whether the level of discounts offered will entice people onto rail. Sadly, we don't think they will, except at the margins, so this could turn out to be a real missed opportunity."

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