Commuters with flexible working hours shun rail season tickets new figures reveal

Commuters with flexible working hours are shunning rail season tickets, new figures reveal, as industry experts call for a “radical overhaul” in fares.Journeys using season tickets recorded a fall for the third year in a row, plummeting from 702 million in 2014/15 to 625 million in 2018/19, according to quarterly statistics from the Office of Road and Rail.Meanwhile the use of regular tickets has increased by five per cent and the overall number of train trips has increased by 50.9 million, taking this year’s total to a record high of 1.76 billion.Experts partly blame the trend on an increase in part-time and flexible working, meaning travellers are unable to take full advantage of all the journeys afforded by season tickets so instead opt to pay as they go.Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “This increase in the number of train journeys is good news. However, significant, sustained, longer-term investment in the railway must continue in order to build on this, reduce overcrowding and help regain passenger trust.“The continued decline in season tickets underlines the need for a radical overhaul of the fares structure. Passengers want a fares system that is simple to use, easy to understand and better value for money.“Rail fares and ticketing needs to suit the way we travel now – there is a huge demand for smarter ticketing which can help flexible and part-time workers better access the railway.”Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said companies are not taking into account “how people live and work today”, while Campaign for Better Transport highlight that “the way people travel is changing”.Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Rail companies are changing and improving today, running thousands of extra services every week so that more people can benefit from taking the train and our communities are better connected.”The long-term decline in season tickets, despite the continued growth in commuting, shows that the rail fares system needs to change to match how people live and work today.”This is why we want to work with Government on proposals to update regulation that would support flexible working.” Show more Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Journeys on the railway are at a record high, showing rail’s relevance to communities is growing. But these figures hide important challenges.”There is a huge regional divide with London and the South East accounting for 70 per cent of all trips. Meanwhile, season ticket sales continue to fall showing the way people travel is changing.”The Government’s rail review must ensure that the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail are felt across the whole country while ticketing reform must ensure there are cheaper, simpler, fairer fares relevant to modern needs.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.