New ‘flexible' rail season tickets for part-time commuters are set to offer much lower savings than full-time season tickets, with just a 15% discount, it has been reported.
The Telegraph said ministers and rail company bosses are ‘putting the finishing touches to a new system’ to be rolled out across the rail network in June.
SWR's smartcard offers a 5% discount on carnets
However, as previously reported by Transport Network, it added that industry sources had said plans for a bigger discount were blocked by the Treasury following concerns that spending on rail was getting out of control.
The paper said that on key routes it would be cheaper to buy a standard monthly season ticket than travel three days a week using the new flexible system.
As expected, the new tickets are reported to be carnet products that will allow passengers to make five return journeys in any single month, with a discount of 15% on peak fares.
A passenger planning to commute for one day a week for a month could buy one ticket, while someone travelling twice or three times a week would buy additional carnets.
The Telegraph said a passenger commuting twice a week would pay only 30% less than for a five-day, monthly season ticket, while the cost of travelling three days a week on carnet tickets would be higher than a standard monthly season ticket on typical routes.
It calculated that, based on a £45.60 fare between London and Brighton, each carnet will cost £193.80, which would mean that buying three carnets to travel three days a week over the month would cost £581.40, compared with £414.40 for a monthly season ticket.
David Sidebottom, director of watchdog Transport Focus, said: 'This type of carnet offer isn’t a catch-all incentive. It would provide a better deal for those commuting two days a week, but it’s not suited to three-day-a-week commuters.
'Those passengers need to be incentivised through wider fares reform that matches how more people want to travel in future.'
A government spokesman told the Telegraph: 'We are committed to providing a more flexible, modern ticketing system for passengers.
'That is why we are looking at ways to make this a reality for commuters, including flexible season tickets. We’ll set out further details in due course.'
A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms said: ‘The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards home working and rail fares need to reflect this so we’re working with the government to introduce new flexible tickets as soon as possible.
‘As passengers return to trains, wider changes to fares are still urgently needed so that instead of adding extra ticket types for people to choose from before travelling, more commuters can benefit from tap-in, tap-out capping and automatically get the best deal at the end of the week or month.’