Transport for the North and nationalised rail operator Northern have launched the region’s first ‘flexi season ticket’, which offers a 10% discount on an anytime return fare.
The sub-national transport body said the move is part of a bigger drive to deliver ‘London-style, contactless payment systems across the North’s outdated public transport networks’.
It said the season tickets ‘guarantee value and flexibility in a world where passengers say they’re unlikely to return to the five-day-week commute’.
The new tickets are in fact carnet-style tickets, where passengers buy 10 anytime day returns in advance at a 10% discount to be loaded to smartcards (pictured) and used over a period of six months.
They are available only on services between Leeds and Harrogate stations and – unlike traditional season tickets – passengers cannot break their journey between the two stations.
TfN said the product is planned for rollout on further routes, although this appears dependent on government funding for new ticket gates.
The base price of the ticket is £10.40, meaning that even with the discount it costs more than the same journey with LNER (£8), although no journey with that operator is available before 9.30 am.
The flexi season can be used on LNER services.
The discounted ticket is also more expensive than an off peak return with Northern (£8.80), meaning that passengers who make some journeys off peak will need to buy a new ticket to avoid being overcharged.
Jeremy Acklam, TfN’s newly-appointed director of integrated and smart travel, said: ‘The launch of flexi seasons is a major and timely milestone in our mission to transform travel across the North of England.
‘Now more than ever, due to the impact of coronavirus on our travel habits, passengers need safer, better value and more convenient ways to pay for public transport. Flexi seasons will provide this for thousands of passengers.’
TfN said it is seeking approval from the Department for Transport to spend more funds from its ringfenced budget so it can rapidly extend the flexi seasons initiative across the whole region.
It has so far installed ‘tap-in-tap-out’ systems on platforms at 90 stations and said region-wide enablement will benefit travellers at over 300-additional stations and provide ‘a stepping-stone to London-style pay as you go travel’.
Mr Acklam added: ‘To realise the benefits of flexi seasons and contactless travel we are now calling on the Department for Transport to green light the next stage so we can move at pace to roll the technology out more widely across the region’s entire rail network.
‘We are in a position to start work tomorrow on the delivery of this scheme which would improve the way we use public transport for the millions of people living and working across our region.’