Flexible Rail Season Tickets - 2/3 days per week to be introduced by June 2021

Starmill

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This is what I would expect to happen. While employers may be making a saving on office space, they are also paying the extra IT costs and won't want the extra bill of paying people to travel to an office.

We had an email around the office a few years ago which suggested that regularly visiting another office for internal purposes, which was suggested as being at least one day every other week (ie 10% of time, let alone 40%), was potentially enough to be classed by the HMRC as regular commuting, and therefore potentially be subject to personal tax liability if expenses are paid. It would appear that this extends to people whose place of work is home but are called into an office every other week and that, even if it were paid as expenses, HMRC may come to consider it as a benefit in kind.
Indeed. I think that this will be a big feature so this is a very good point.

On the other side of this coin the contracts I'm more familiar with are aimed more at preventing employees from doing any work in an office unless there's no alternative. i.e. visiting an office would be by invitation only and one would be expected to go home once finished to continue with work if necessary.
 
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packermac

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Depends on how generous your employer is! Some make the claim procedure so onerous that it's effectively a waste of time trying to recover small amounts.

Others will flat out refuse, citing a 'flexible location of work' stipulation in company procedures, probably located at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the leopard'!
I would not expect many employers to pay expenses to cover meetings at a workplace for those who WFH on a part time basis. Maybe if you are full time at home, but even then I suspect most would not.
 

Hadders

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This was covered in the FAQs issued to staff at my place which basically said you're saving a fortune nit travelling to the office so we're not paying you expenses to come into the office (which is also a permanent workplace and would cause issues with HMRC is we did let you claim expenses)
 

Starmill

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I think much in the dynamic will depend on whether the employee has any agency of their own to choose to work in a company provided building. If they do not, it is not easy to claim that, should they be compelled to attend in person, they're "commuting to work" rather than "on business". I guess it will also depend on whether the meeting in question is provided with an online option or not.
 

35B

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This is what I would expect to happen. While employers may be making a saving on office space, they are also paying the extra IT costs and won't want the extra bill of paying people to travel to an office.

We had an email around the office a few years ago which suggested that regularly visiting another office for internal purposes, which was suggested as being at least one day every other week (ie 10% of time, let alone 40%), was potentially enough to be classed by the HMRC as regular commuting, and therefore potentially be subject to personal tax liability if expenses are paid. It would appear that this extends to people whose place of work is home but are called into an office every other week and that, even if it were paid as expenses, HMRC may come to consider it as a benefit in kind.
I’ve not come across that but can see how it might arise if a normal arrangement. The 40% provision is the “24 Month Rule”, and treats anywhere an employee is or knows they will be for 40% or more of their time over a 2 year period as their base location for tax purposes. It gets very expensive for an employer, and can cause issues for employees even where carried by the employer, for example by tipping them into a higher tax band or affecting eligibility for means tested benefits.
 

FenMan

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Lots of large firms have already moved staff onto home-based contracts, with relatively little or no choice in the matter for employees concerned. We are, after all, a year on now, and a contract amendment to reclassify the place of work to the home address of the employee was a straightforward, quick way of dealing with any permanent site closures. Expect these types of contracts to become markedly more common. The quid pro quo is that where employees are expected to be attending any meeting, even a relatively local one to them, they will be travelling for work and not commuting so expenses can be claimed.

If correct, it will be an area ripe for discrimination and constructive dismissal claims.

The WFH mania will ebb away pretty quickly once human nature reasserts itself. You don't rise to be Chief Exec working from your bedroom for example, while things can change rapidly when a new team manager arrives in post and the team isn't hitting their KPIs. I've seen it happen and I've also seen the impact on team members who've moved out of viable commuting range.

My old employer, which employs 400,000+ globally, encouraged WFH for many years, primarily to save money. That all changed in 2017 when employees were told they had to work in the office most days or they were free to do the other thing. The reasons? (1) Wall St was getting fed up with the corporation's lack of performance, and, more controversially, (2) the employees most comfortable with home working were the relatively expensive old hands. Clamping down on WFH was a neat way of freshening up the workforce and reducing the salary bill.
 

Jurg

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The nail has firmly been hit on the head.
I understand the sentiment, but I'd be surprised if a burning ambition to be the CEO one day is a significant factor in how the vast majority of people choose to structure their working week. Certainly not to the extent that railway planners need to be keeping themselves awake at night thinking up strategies to meet their needs.

Much more likely to be factors are:
  • Many people don't have the free space in their homes to have a dedicated home office area.
  • Some employers seem to be control freaks who don't trust their staff out of their sight.
  • Many work settings benefit from staff being able to informally chat through their work with each other, and for all the positives, Teams, Zoom etc are a poor substitute in this respect.
 

Bletchleyite

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The nail has firmly been hit on the head.

You can certainly rise to being the Chief Exec by using your time in a "blended" manner, though. If you're actually "doing work", at home is the best place. If you want to network, then you need to be there in person. Much "networking" takes places on lunches and on the golf course, anyway, not in some central London office block.

I understand the sentiment, but I'd be surprised if a burning ambition to be the CEO one day is a significant factor in how the vast majority of people choose to structure their working week. Certainly not to the extent that railway planners need to be keeping themselves awake at night thinking up strategies to meet their needs.

There's that too. I have no interest whatsoever in being a CEO (other than possibly of my own small business which would stay small) and I'd imagine that's true of the vast majority of employees. Being the CEO of a large firm is a minority pursuit.

Much more likely to be factors are:
  • Many people don't have the free space in their homes to have a dedicated home office area.

Yes, that one is certainly an issue for many.

  • Some employers seem to be control freaks who don't trust their staff out of their sight.

That was long the case in IT contracting - "how do we trust you are doing our work and not someone else's?" - the answer to that changed quickly when the cost savings of WFH became apparent.

  • Many work settings benefit from staff being able to informally chat through their work with each other, and for all the positives, Teams, Zoom etc are a poor substitute in this respect.

There are ways to make that work. Certainly, in my experience (7 years WFH now) a daily "standup" meeting near the start of the day is absolutely essential.
 

jon0844

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Fridays are already quiet, but I am not sure I agree about Mondays. My preferred days if I did two a week would be Monday and Wednesday.

Won't many businesses begin to roster staff to properly use the (reduced) office space they eventually have? It might be done so everyone gets to benefit from a Friday or Monday off, and assuming a lot of businesses do it - it might actually average out the passenger flows on public transport a bit better.
 

Starmill

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I think there's a big difference between finding your niche in work on projects, where although you need to collaborate you ultimately know how well you're doing yourself and just need to check in with management, and the task of genuine people management which might lead you to the C-Suite. If you're in a large organisation, the former is about you delivering your best work. The latter is more about how you can help other people to do that. Of course you may well find lots of senior managers in any industry who are actively rubbish at providing support to their staff, and are there for money and status alone, and got their by throwing others under the bus, but whatever. For people who join large organisations because they like the work or because they can get high pay deploying specialist skills, working quietly and comfortably at home is overwhelmingly likely to be fine. For people there who are there because they want to be a 'leader' it's a different matter. And for people whose home is really uncomfortable for working in it's a much more pressing different matter.
 

35B

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Won't many businesses begin to roster staff to properly use the (reduced) office space they eventually have? It might be done so everyone gets to benefit from a Friday or Monday off, and assuming a lot of businesses do it - it might actually average out the passenger flows on public transport a bit better.
That makes some big assumptions about how organisations and the teams within them work. It also, as we’ve seen time and again, puts the capacity cart before the demand horse.

I think there's a big difference between finding your niche in work on projects, where although you need to collaborate you ultimately know how well you're doing yourself and just need to check in with management, and the task of genuine people management which might lead you to the C-Suite. If you're in a large organisation, the former is about you delivering your best work. The latter is more about how you can help other people to do that. Of course you may well find lots of senior managers in any industry who are actively rubbish at providing support to their staff, and are there for money and status alone, and got their by throwing others under the bus, but whatever. For people who join large organisations because they like the work or because they can get high pay deploying specialist skills, working quietly and comfortably at home is overwhelmingly likely to be fine. For people there who are there because they want to be a 'leader' it's a different matter. And for people whose home is really uncomfortable for working in it's a much more pressing different matter.
All I can say from my observations of my employer, which has many alpha personalities, is that the leaders have historically done significant chunks of their work from home, as it is where they are relatively immune from interruptions. That includes people management which has consistently been highly distributed.
 

infobleep

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This was covered in the FAQs issued to staff at my place which basically said you're saving a fortune nit travelling to the office so we're not paying you expenses to come into the office (which is also a permanent workplace and would cause issues with HMRC is we did let you claim expenses)
I've been told if we work mostly from home then that is our permanent work place so they will pay for expenses when travelling into work.

The organisation is saving money by less of us being in an office. However this also means a part time season ticket is unlikely to be of use to me

I'm also likely to be travelling after 9:30am. This isn't good for the railways but its good for the organisation I work for and saves me money. I think currently it's a case of every public sector organisation for themsleves, as they do what they can to save money. Just my opinion right now.
 

peters

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I assumed this would allow you to choose your days on a week by week basis?

It's stupid if not, because for people who work shifts and might have their shifts on different days each week - which is probably far from reality for the executive staff in flexible, salaried positions at DfT and the TOCs, but in reality is a thing - it makes the product entirely useless.

Northern have rolled this out on a selected number of routes. It sounds like you need to have a smartcard to get a flexible season ticket and then you touch in and touch out, which then reduces the number of remaining journeys on your smartcard. Consequently, I'm doubtful of this being rolled out network wide by June and even if they manage it I expect we'll see teething problems with the touch in and touch out points, especially at the smaller rural stations.
 

FenMan

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I understand the sentiment, but I'd be surprised if a burning ambition to be the CEO one day is a significant factor in how the vast majority of people choose to structure their working week. Certainly not to the extent that railway planners need to be keeping themselves awake at night thinking up strategies to meet their needs.

Much more likely to be factors are:
  • Many people don't have the free space in their homes to have a dedicated home office area.
  • Some employers seem to be control freaks who don't trust their staff out of their sight.
  • Many work settings benefit from staff being able to informally chat through their work with each other, and for all the positives, Teams, Zoom etc are a poor substitute in this respect.
I was using an extreme example. Like it or not, many people are highly ambitious and will shift heaven and earth to advance themselves. And once they've attained positions of power they're the people that get to make the rules. All the big employers in the City want these people and offer handsome rewards to the winners while churning through the also rans. It's a pipe dream to believe major players in the City will suddenly switch to being caring, touchy feely employers. It's a rat race and the competitors are unlikely remove themselves from where the action is.

In turn, that means the huge variety of service industries that orbit the City, from snack bars and dry cleaners to lawyers and consultancies, will be back too.

What is more uncertain is how COVID will accelerate existing trends such as the decline of bricks & mortar retail and the UK Government's ideas for moving key Whitehall departments to "left behind" areas. Whatever happens, I don't see London declining in importance in the way it did in the 60s and 70s. For one thing the UK Government would be unwise to allow that to happen again as too much tax revenue is at stake.
 

adrock1976

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What's it called? It's called Cumbernauld
Regarding 3 day seasons, would a 2 or 3 days from 7 work (similar to the Regional Rovers) where the holder/bearer gets to choose their own days of use?

For example, if required to be in the office on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, Day 1 would start on Wednesday, with the season having Day 7 the following Tuesday. Using it on Saturday (Day 3), the season would expire at 04:29 the next day.

Obviously, this would require touch pad validators similar to Oyster in London for it to work.
 

packermac

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Regarding 3 day seasons, would a 2 or 3 days from 7 work (similar to the Regional Rovers) where the holder/bearer gets to choose their own days of use?

For example, if required to be in the office on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, Day 1 would start on Wednesday, with the season having Day 7 the following Tuesday. Using it on Saturday (Day 3), the season would expire at 04:29 the next day.

Obviously, this would require touch pad validators similar to Oyster in London for it to work.
I think they need to be far more flexible than that.
There will be many that work regular days, but others will need flexibility, differing days some weeks, extra days, differing times. RDG need to address all these issues.
I do not have an answer, but then I am not paid to come up with one.
 

Bletchleyite

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Regarding 3 day seasons, would a 2 or 3 days from 7 work (similar to the Regional Rovers) where the holder/bearer gets to choose their own days of use?

For example, if required to be in the office on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, Day 1 would start on Wednesday, with the season having Day 7 the following Tuesday. Using it on Saturday (Day 3), the season would expire at 04:29 the next day.

Obviously, this would require touch pad validators similar to Oyster in London for it to work.

To me the best way would be to "keep it simple" and do it on a "carnet of day tickets" type basis with a long validity, thus making one product suitable for many uses. Isn't that what Northern did?
 

Chester1

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I think they need to be far more flexible than that.
There will be many that work regular days, but others will need flexibility, differing days some weeks, extra days, differing times. RDG need to address all these issues.
I do not have an answer, but then I am not paid to come up with one.

To me the best way would be to "keep it simple" and do it on a "carnet of day tickets" type basis with a long validity, thus making one product suitable for many uses. Isn't that what Northern did?

Carnets or a 12 days per month season ticket would suit me.

I really don't get the confidence of people who think that WFH is a fad. Maybe them and their mates won't be hybrid working after the pandemic but a decent chunk of office workers will be, just based on what has already been announced by the likes of Lloyds, BP and Standard Life. Despite desire of the PM to return to normal the Civil Service is moving towards hybrid working because productivity has been good, it counters recruitment damage from the pay freeze and because it will release a collosal number of offices to sell (especially in London). The majority of my friends (across a range of industries) have all been promised some home working each week after the pandemic. Perhaps we are part of a minority of office workers but even that is 20% of office workers there must be rail tickets aimed at us.
 

Ianno87

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To me the best way would be to "keep it simple" and do it on a "carnet of day tickets" type basis with a long validity, thus making one product suitable for many uses. Isn't that what Northern did?

My biggest gripe with "carnet" tickets is usually the relatively restrictive time limit on using all of them, combined with a not particularly earth-shattering discount on just buying normal tickets.
 

AM9

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... I'm also likely to be travelling after 9:30am. This isn't good for the railways but ...
I think you are wrong there. Peak demand is bad for the railways and has so many negative impacts: more trains with poor overall usage, more infrastructure with poor overall usage, more staff with inefficient manning, higher electricity costs because peak periods coincide with high domestic consumption, crowding on stations and trains, and finally the thing that passengers notice the most, higher fares, - just think when higher price anytime tickets are necessary.x
The railway would be much more efficient, comfortable, reliable and fares simpler and lower, were it not for the excessive demands for less than 20% of the time on Mondays to Fridays.
 

infobleep

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I think you are wrong there. Peak demand is bad for the railways and has so many negative impacts: more trains with poor overall usage, more infrastructure with poor overall usage, more staff with inefficient manning, higher electricity costs because peak periods coincide with high domestic consumption, crowding on stations and trains, and finally the thing that passengers notice the most, higher fares, - just think when higher price anytime tickets are necessary.x
The railway would be much more efficient, comfortable, reliable and fares simpler and lower, were it not for the excessive demands for less than 20% of the time on Mondays to Fridays.
So if I and others go in after 9:30am when fares are cheaper will that bring the railway in more money overall, due to reduced costs earlier in the day when fares are more expensive?
 

packermac

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So if I and others go in after 9:30am when fares are cheaper will that bring the railway in more money overall, due to reduced costs earlier in the day when fares are more expensive?
It would if you reach a point where you need less stock and less staff. But we are probably a way from there currently.
 

Ianno87

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I think you are wrong there. Peak demand is bad for the railways and has so many negative impacts: more trains with poor overall usage, more infrastructure with poor overall usage, more staff with inefficient manning, higher electricity costs because peak periods coincide with high domestic consumption, crowding on stations and trains, and finally the thing that passengers notice the most, higher fares, - just think when higher price anytime tickets are necessary.x
The railway would be much more efficient, comfortable, reliable and fares simpler and lower, were it not for the excessive demands for less than 20% of the time on Mondays to Fridays.

So if I and others go in after 9:30am when fares are cheaper will that bring the railway in more money overall, due to reduced costs earlier in the day when fares are more expensive?

Traditionally off-peak travel is a good thing, as it is deploying resources otherwise required for the peak all day (with a relatively low marginal cost of doing so), but generating more than enough revenue to cover the marginal cost.

That logic gets flipped on its head if there is no longer a 'peak' in the traditional sense, but well-spread demand across the day is arguably a better place to be in. What the railway does not want is an empty peak and a full off-peak.
 

Starmill

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What the railway does not want is an empty peak and a full off-peak.
Although it is worth knowing that this is a very, very effective way to bring in the £ on some long-distance routes, as has been proven over many years. Hopefully that will be consigned to history now but...
 
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To me the best way would be to "keep it simple" and do it on a "carnet of day tickets" type basis with a long validity, thus making one product suitable for many uses. Isn't that what Northern did?
ATW (Now TFW) certainly had something like that when I used to commute into Manchester a couple of years ago. Very useful.
 

AM9

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So if I and others go in after 9:30am when fares are cheaper will that bring the railway in more money overall, due to reduced costs earlier in the day when fares are more expensive?
Incrementally no - there won't be any change of train frequency or reduction in staff/rolling stock because you alone move from peak journeys to off-peak alternatives. This thread is about the future of ticketing including season tickets that although they are mostly bought for peak travel, their heavy subsidy means that the railway effectively makes a loss on them.
However, if there ia a general work pattern change as a result of WFH and other COVID-19 consequences, a more even spread of demand for rail travel will benefit almost everybody with lower costs, the exception being those that seek out the very low cost advances, - I do that when I visit the NEC for Events.
Even in these strange times, a return off peak journey from Watford Junction to Birmingham International bookable for tomorrow would cost just £16.90 - and that is on Avanti! Both ways. The trains call only at MK, Rugby and Coventry and take 64 minutes each way for a 119 mile journey. That's what I call a bargain, but am aware that it is only possible because the railway has excess capacity to sell rather than carrying empty seats.
 
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Starmill

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Incrementally no - there won't be any change of train frequency or reduction in staff/rolling stocj=k because you alone move from peak journeys to off-peak alternatives. This thread is about the future of ticketing including season tickets that although they are mostly bought for peak travel, their heavy subsidy means that the railway effectively makes a loss on them.
However, if there ia a general work pattern change as a result of WFH and other COVID-19 consequences, a more even spread of demand for rail travel will benefit almost everybody with lower costs, the exception being those that seek out the very low cost advances, - I do that when I visit the NEC for Events.
Even in these strange times, a return off peak journey from Watford Junction to Birmingham International bookable for tomorrow would cost just £16.90 - and that is on Avanti! Both ways. The trains call only at MK, Rugby and Coventry and take 64 minutes each way for a 119 mile journey. That's what I call a bargain, but am aware that it is only possible because the railway has excess capacity to sell rather than carrying empty seats.
All perfectly logical in the round. But in the near term the issue is that the industry does not seem to have begun the process of cost cuts, and the Department hasn't acted for a year.
 

Ianno87

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Although it is worth knowing that this is a very, very effective way to bring in the £ on some long-distance routes, as has been proven over many years. Hopefully that will be consigned to history now but...

Depends how able Avanti and the like are still going to be able to charge (and employers able to justify) top-whack peak fares in the post-Covid world.
 

AM9

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All perfectly logical in the round. But in the near term the issue is that the industry does not seem to have begun the process of cost cuts, and the Department hasn't acted for a year.

As I said (with typo corrected)
"if there is a general work pattern change as a result of WFH and other COVID-19 consequences".
Nobody knows what the new normal for travel will be, but it is likely there will be some scaling down and although there is unlikely to be a panic hacking away of the timetables, followed by a fire-sale of assets and mass redundancies, - the first impact is likely to be the discreet shelving of some projects that were proposed specifically to deal with peak capacity.
 

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