Accent MR Accent

Flexi Season Tickets – Long overdue

Our response to the recent Government announcement of the introduction of new Flexi Season tickets (allowing 8 days of travel in 28 days – any time between two stations) was: What took them so long?!

Train and bus operators and regulators have been mulling over such a ticket for over a decade and it appears that only now with Covid-19 prompting a major change in commuting patterns has the change been made.

The pandemic and working from home have certainly accelerated the reduced demand for traditional season tickets. Many employers have announced that staff will be given the option to work from home completely or at least part of the week after pandemic restrictions are removed.

However, before Covid-19 there were already signs of a shift in commuting patterns. Accent had undertaken work for a couple of franchises in 2017 and 2018 exploring the appeal of potential ticket products for the more flexible workforce.

Two decades ago London Underground asked Accent to research the demand for odd period tickets and London Buses asked Accent to explore various new ticketing options including carnets.

So, what do we think of the new product?

“For a flexi season it does not appear very flexible.”

The key questions that we think need answering are:

  • Although targeted at those who commute 2-3 days a week the product allows travel only 2 days a week over a four week period. Is there a need for 10 and 12 days variants?
  • Are the savings large enough to tempt commuters back onto trains?
  • How does this initiative fit with business strategies for their workforces?

While the Government estimates commuters could save between £60 and £350 a year on selected journeys, it would only be a cost saving if you are definitely going to travel two days a week and NO MORE! Again, not that flexible.

It is important that passengers use the calculator to check the costs, as the new flexible tickets would not be the best option for everyone:

Chris Heywood is a founding member and director at Accent. He has thirty five years’ experience of market research and specialises in transport research.