Flexi Season Tickets 2021 - FAQ

This document provides a supplementary set of Frequently Asked Questions to our ideas for Flexible Season tickets for delivery in mid-2021; it will be updated as needed, please check back from time to time.

Question: Some season tickets give very high discounts; Why do you think your approach is still applicable?
Answer: The highest discounts are typically associated with long distance services, operated before privatisation by BR’s Intercity Brand.  Whilst we have calculated discounts by reference to the applicable Open Return or Day Return fare, Advance fare tickets, at a significantly lower price will often be the more meaningful ‘competitor’.  For example, for Bristol to London, the headline season ticket discount is 69.4% - £224.20 per day vs £343.10 per week.  On the evening of Saturday 30 January, we checked the price for Advance tickets for Monday 1 February.  At that point, a pair of Advances (7:30am out 7:02pm back) cost £82.30.  Therefore, even a three day a week traveller, if they can make any commitment on travel times, will often better off not using a season ticket, particularly if they are in a position to book a few days in advance.

Question:Don’t UK Rail Fares need fundamental reform? / isn’t this ‘tinkering at the edges’?
Answer: Yes, UK Rail fares do require fundamental reform.  However, this will take time to design the detail, time to agree and time to implement.  For many, the days of attend the workplace every day (or most days) are finished.  For now, it is work at home all the time, but as Covid risks reduce, the move will be towards a mixture.  For these travellers, a new fare system is needed now, rather than only after the greater time to complete more fundamental reform.  See our fares pages for more views.

Question:I'd like to write to my MP to support your campaign. Have you got any materials to support me?
Answer: Yes, We have a template letter for you to use; this is available as a separate page.

Question:Your choice means people need to travel, on average, 2½ times per week.  What about the twice a week traveller?
Answer: Our approach also benefits these travellers where season ticket discounts are higher, but as they would not use every ticket they purchase, their effective price per used ticket would increase.  For instance, from Bedford, the cost per return journey is cheaper than the existing Carnet arrangement (£31.08 vs £40.20) – see our worked example.

Question:What about the more regular traveller?
Answer: We believe that this is not a product for them; our sample analysis shows increases in price per day when fewer days per week are travelled. We have reviewed how our product might work for Thameslink North stations (outside TfL Zones 1 to 6).  The traditional weekly, monthly and annual season tickets will continue to make most sense for daily travellers to the workplace; in addition to savings from purchasing longer duration tickets, further bonuses include effectively free travel at the weekends for leisure, and in the South East, for annual ticket holders, a Gold Card.  For anyone travelling 9 days a fortnight, a traditional season ticket is still likely to prove better value for money.  For those travelling between 3 and 4 days a week, our recommended solution is likely to be the most appealing.
A graphic showing price per journey with various ticket options, including Railfuture's idea for a flexi season

We have additional pricing detail in a downloadable file:Download or Display.

Question:What are the highest and lowest discounts for season tickets you have found?
Answer: We have not carried out a systematic analysis of all possible fares, but in the sample journeys we have looked at, the highest discount we found was 72% (York to London) and the lowest was 1.3% (Basildon to London). This is based on 5 returns vs a weekly ticket. Discount rates on c2c (services to Fenchurch Street) seem generally lower than most. Outside London, the lowest discount included in our sample was Derby to Nottingham (3.9%).

Question:What about bank holidays?
Answer: Tickets should be made valid for 15 days, rather than 14, on these occasions.

Question:How might the discount for off-peak ticket usage work?
Answer: As c2c already apply for their flexi-ticket, credit could be given each time a ticket is used at off-peak times and added to the traveller’s online account. As the main users of this product will be travelling for many weeks, they will use up this credit by offsetting against future tickets. Occasionally, it is likely to prove necessary to organise refunds (eg on retirement, or change of job), but even then, the traveller may be able to use the credit for leisure travel.

Question:Do you expect users of these tickets to have Photocards?
Answer: That is a matter for the TOCs, but we would be very sympathetic to a conclusion that Photocards are required for these tickets. They are designed to be personal, for use by one person in the same way as a traditional season ticket.

Question:What about these tickets being used by family members?
Answer: The risks of these tickets being used by other people is the same as for other types of ticket - it is possible. TOC Revenue Enforcement can (and should) address this along with all other enforcement activities.

v1.1 4 March 2021 (added Photocard and use by family member FAQs)