Flexi rail tickets 'not much use' due to minimal savings, says group

Alstom Aventra train at Ipswich

Greater Anglia said its commuter trains are becoming busier - but only a few passenger have flexi-tickets. - Credit: Paul Geater

Flexible rail season tickets have had a limited take-up - as a passenger group said they were "really not much use" due to the minimal savings they offer.

Traveller numbers on Greater Anglia routes continue to rise following the coronavirus pandemic - but the firm has sold 1,500 flexible tickets for 27,000 journeys across its network.

The new tickets were introduced in July to help people who only go into the office two or three days a week.

They offer people eight days of travel in 28 days and have been most popular from Chelmsford, Billericay and Bishops Stortford stations.

With more people returning to offices in September following the summer holidays, Greater Anglia believes more tickets are already being sold.

However Derek Monnery, from the Essex Federation of Rail Users, said flexible season tickets are unlikely to have a big impact on passenger numbers:

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"Most people see them as window dressing which are really not much use, he said.

"The savings they offer over monthly season tickets are minimal and you lose all the flexibility - you have to travel more than eight days out of 28.

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"I think it's a case of the government wanting to seem as if it is doing something, but actually no-one is that interested when they look at the offer.

"What would really make a difference is if the fares were reduced to what they are in France or Germany for similar journeys - that would bring people back."

National figures from the Department of Transport showed that in the week beginning August 23, trains carried 66% of the passengers they did in the same week in 2019 - the highest figure since the start of the pandemic.

However, the number of business and commuting journeys was only 59% of the 2019 level.

Greater Anglia hopes to see a significant increase in the number of commuters this month.

A spokeswoman for the train operator said: "We are starting to see some of our commuter trains getting a bit busier again.

"I was on one of our new commuter trains from Colchester earlier today and while there was plenty of space in there, it was certainly busier than it was earlier in the year."

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