Train companies have not responded to changing work patterns

Our railways sell tickets as if everyone has a 9-to-5 job and works 5 days a week.

Our railways sell tickets as if everyone has a 9-to-5 job and works 5 days a week

More than a third of working Britains have part-time jobs or work flexible hours. But our railways sell tickets as if everyone has a 9-to-5 job, and works five-day week. It leaves many people paying over the odds for tickets, or not being able to use the train at all.

Campaign for Better Transport is pushing for train companies and government to work together on introducing part-time season tickets across the network.

There are currently 8m people in part time work – making up nearly 30 per cent of those in employment. Of this around 75 per cent are women, the majority of whom have dependent children. A further 4m people work flexibly, splitting their working time between days in the office and working from home.

This is the reality of a changing labour market where millions try to balance a career and a family with the high cost of living, paying the bills, lengthening commuting distances and a wealth of other factors.

But most train companies have not responded to changing work patterns in their ticketing. Unlike many other European countries, the majority of operators do not offer any tickets targeted at those who are in the office 2, 3 or 4 days a week.

For part-time workers who want or need to use the train, the cheapest option is often simply to fork out for a full season ticket and bin 2 or 3 days of it.

For many others, inflexible tickets preclude them using the train at all. Annual ticket price hikes have led some to contact us with heart-rending stories of leaving part time jobs they can no longer afford to get to.

Our research shows that introducing part time rail season tickets would save commuters a lot of money. An average commuter traveling to London from the south east three days a week would save over £1500 a year. Part-time commuters to Birmingham would save around £600, with those commuting to part-time roles in Manchester and Bristol saving £460 and £765 a year respectively.

Last year, then-transport minister Lib Dem Norman Baker said government would trial part time season tickets on a single commuter line into London. But progress with even this very limited step has been painfully slow. Originally intended to run this year, no date has been set for it to begin and no details of the line it will take place on have been announced.

Some of the delay is likely to be the result of tricky negotiation with train companies worried about loss of revenue. Plans to roll out Oyster Card-style smarter ticketing across the south east could also have held things up.

Helping people get to work should be a policy no-brainer for government. There is evidence that employees and employers would both benefit.  It would increase the options for those looking to work part-time and it would give more people the opportunity to leave the car at home, reducing congestion and pollution.

Campaign for Better Transport is one of 15 organisations delivering a joint letter to the secretary of state today (11 June) calling for much faster progress and a firm timetable to be agreed with all train companies on introducing part-time season tickets.

Andrew Allen works for the Campaign for Better Transport

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