Transport User Voice – September 2020 – Head Out to Help Out

27 August 2020

Fairer fares to get passengers back on the railway

Better fares are needed to get passengers back on trains. Transport Focus wants the Government to launch a similar campaign to ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ to help get rail operators get back on their feet as lockdown measures ease.

Our research shows that those who have used public transport feel safe doing so while those who are worried tend to be the ones who haven’t actually gone back. We think Government incentive of discounts and cut-price deals will help get more people back on board to see how safe public transport is.

Clearly a huge part of the decline in the use of public transport has been to do with no-one having to commute. As we have done previously, we’re calling for extensive fares reform that will address new flexible working patterns. People aren’t going to be rushing back to the office amid rising season ticket prices, not to mention their inflexibility now many of us expect to work from home more.

Transport Focus is urging the Government to reform the fares and ticketing system to offer better value for money. This should go beyond a fares freeze, rather than the rise in line with RPI, and include the roll out of more flexible season tickets for people returning to their place of work part-time.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“People’s feelings about travel, and the way they use public transport, have changed. While the rail leisure travel may bounce back, our research tells us almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more so we will probably now travel less for work, both commuting and on business.

“The Government needs to get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet style ‘bundles’, flexible season tickets for commuters and better value for money fares across the board. To get Britain moving again in the coming months, tickets that fit the way we live and travel now are needed, not just season tickets designed for city gents in the last century.

“Like the Government’s restaurant deal, we need a ‘Head Out to Help Out’ campaign to help get the country on the move again, boost the economy and reduce traffic on our roads.”

So, we want to see cut price deals to entice passengers back to rail travel following the impact of coronavirus, starting with the launch of a ‘Head Out to Help Out’ scheme. This, along with the introduction of more flexible season tickets and ‘carnets’ (which offer a discount for multiple journeys when bought upfront) for people returning to their place of work part-time.

The pandemic has shown how important a reform of the complex rail fares system is and that this needs to be urgently accelerated to deliver a better value for money fares system for passengers.


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