Businesses say flexible rail season tickets not good enough

·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
An Avanti West Coast train at Stoke-on-Trent Train Station. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
The BCC has called for root-and-branch reform of the UK railways 'archaic and complicated ticket pricing system'.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has issued a stinging criticism of the government's new flexible rail season tickets, saying the "flexibility and savings offered by the new scheme do not go anywhere near far enough."

On Monday the government announced new flexible season tickets that allow people who commute to work just two or three days a week to save on travel.

The tickets can be used for any eight days within a 28-day period for travel between two stations. There is no need to select the days of travel in advance.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the tickets would give people "greater freedom and choice". The government estimated that people could save up to £350 a year on selected journeys.

Read more: How to get a flexible rail season ticket as they launch in Britain

However, commuters and industry experts have since criticised the scheme, saying the savings are negligible on many routes. The BBC interviewed one commuter who would save just £7 a year on a season ticket worth over £5,000.

"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," said Norman Baker of the Campaign for Better Transport. He called the scheme "a real missed opportunity".

The BCC joined the chorus of criticism on Wednesday. Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, issued a statement calling for the government to go further on savings to help businesses recovery from the pandemic.

"It is positive the government has recognised the need to improve the system, but the flexibility and savings offered by the new scheme do not go anywhere near far enough," she said.

“To power the country’s post-Covid economic recovery, businesses need access to the widest possible pool of talent to fuel their reopening and expansion plans. Our new flexible working patterns will help more people to thrive in work – but they must be supported by equally flexible, and more affordable, fares and ticketing." 

Gratton warned that most commuters were unlikely to use the new season tickets given the negligible savings and lack of flexibility. The BCC is calling for root-and-branch reform of what Gratton called the UK's "archaic and complicated ticket pricing system". 

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