Time to scrap season tickets and peak fares?

deltic

Established Member
Joined
8 Feb 2010
Messages
2,211
Commuter traffic has collapsed and working from home for a considerable proportion of rail commuters is likely to continue long after Covid-19 is forgotten about. Business travel is also likely to reduce due to the massive take up of video-conferencing and organisations moving to net zero. This suggests that the reason for peak pricing is about to fall away, ie the need to discourage demand and to pay for extra infrastructure required to pay for peak services.

This offers an opportunity to simplify the fare system by scraping peak time tickets and discounted season tickets. The only fares would then be off-peak use on any train and advance tickets for specified services. Use of smart card or contactless cards would negate the need for daily buying of tickets for regular users.

There will of course be winners and losers but peak traffic as we knew it is unlikely to return
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
25,354
Location
Yorks
People keep saying the season ticket is dead, and its true, they are a decreasing proportion of sales, but all the while they are useful to some, why get rid of them ? They are the very epitome of simplified ticketing. Choose a route and you can travel on it, any time, any place, anywhere.

I can see that the concept of peak/off peak may need to be revisited at some stage though.
 

JonathanH

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
5,465
Scrapping season tickets in an era where office workers don't travel as much may have a disproportionate impact on exactly the key workers who don't have any choice but to continue to travel.
 

Watershed

Member
Joined
26 Sep 2020
Messages
58
Location
UK
Scrapping season tickets in an era where office workers don't travel as much may have a disproportionate impact on exactly the key workers who don't have any choice but to continue to travel.
I would agree entirely. Whilst office based workers will be unlikely to return to 5 days a week commuting, there are still a number of workers who will need to continue to do so. Eliminating season tickets could make their commute much more expensive.

In the long run, if you could have a contactless based ticketing system throughout the country, it could retrospectively work out what the most appropriate fare to charge was. That might involve weekly caps, as well as pseudo-carnet caps for when you do a certain number of trips (say 10) over a given period (say, a month).

Of course that is all rather pie in the sky thinking. Any such changes will be long in the tooth.
 

MotCO

Established Member
Joined
25 Aug 2014
Messages
1,484
Scrapping season tickets in an era where office workers don't travel as much may have a disproportionate impact on exactly the key workers who don't have any choice but to continue to travel.

Agreed, but maybe the season ticket could be revised so as not to give unlimited travel on the route, just one return journey per day, and as a consequence, the fares could be reduced. This would favour those key workers who probably do not earn very high wages or salaries, and who could be doing shiftwork which could often mean off-peak travel.
 

alistairlees

Established Member
Joined
29 Dec 2016
Messages
1,989
Agreed, but maybe the season ticket could be revised so as not to give unlimited travel on the route, just one return journey per day, and as a consequence, the fares could be reduced. This would favour those key workers who probably do not earn very high wages or salaries, and who could be doing shiftwork which could often mean off-peak travel.
They are already priced on that assumption (one return journey per day, five days a week).
 

JonathanH

Established Member
Joined
29 May 2011
Messages
5,465
Agreed, but maybe the season ticket could be revised so as not to give unlimited travel on the route, just one return journey per day, and as a consequence, the fares could be reduced. This would favour those key workers who probably do not earn very high wages or salaries, and who could be doing shiftwork which could often mean off-peak travel.
I'm sure the pricing is already set around a passenger only making one return journey a day, it is just easier to offer unlimited travel as a 'perk'. What about the key worker who does overnight shifts and would end up travelling potentially six days a week?

There will of course be winners and losers but peak traffic as we knew it is unlikely to return
Isn't that justification for increasing the yield from occasional travellers to make up for the lost revenue. Be careful what you wish for.
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
25,354
Location
Yorks
Agreed, but maybe the season ticket could be revised so as not to give unlimited travel on the route, just one return journey per day, and as a consequence, the fares could be reduced. This would favour those key workers who probably do not earn very high wages or salaries, and who could be doing shiftwork which could often mean off-peak travel.

I doubt very much that seasons are priced to take account of multiple journeys on the same day.
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
2,058
For what it's worth, Southern's delay repay scheme (and possibly those of other TOCs also) assumes the following usage for season tickets...

For an annual season ticket = 464 single journeys;

A six-monthly season ticket = 240 single journeys;

A quarterly season ticket = 120 single journeys;

A monthly season ticket = 40 single journeys;

And a weekly season ticket = 10 single journeys.
 

Bletchleyite

Veteran Member
Joined
20 Oct 2014
Messages
59,403
Location
"Marston Vale mafia"
I doubt very much that seasons are priced to take account of multiple journeys on the same day.

They aren't, they are priced to take account of 5 return journeys per week. And you'll find that almost nobody actually does make more than one journey a day so it's not worth worrying about.

I wouldn't scrap them, they are convenient. What I'd do, rather than pratting about with carnets and other complexities, is just reduce Anytime Day Returns on commuter routes considerably. The very slight premium they attract away from London (typically 10-20% or so) is probably about right; it's only the London commuter area where they tend to be priced at what is de-facto a penalty. (I exclude InterCity there, which is a different issue).
 

CyrusWuff

Established Member
Joined
20 May 2013
Messages
2,412
They are already priced on that assumption (one return journey per day, five days a week).
Not always!

A few examples:
  • Cambridge - London : 7 Day Season (7DS) is £131.40 against an Anytime Day Return (SDR) of £44.40 (breakeven point 3 days)
  • Southend Victoria - London : 7 Day Season is £103.50, SDR is £32.40, breakeven point of 4 days
  • Ashford International - London via HS1 : 7DS is £171.10, SDR is £73.10, breakeven point of 3 days
  • Banbury - London : 7DS is £152.90, SDR is £84.70, breakeven with just 2 days of travel
 

Bletchleyite

Veteran Member
Joined
20 Oct 2014
Messages
59,403
Location
"Marston Vale mafia"
Not always!

Yes always, except maybe the very long distance "silly" ones like Manchester-London. Delay Repay is always paid on that basis for a season ticket.

That doesn't mean the price is calculated that way; the prices are market-driven from BR days and since have become regulated so inconsistencies can't be solved other than by reducing the price, which of course won't happen.
 

Ianno87

Established Member
Joined
3 May 2015
Messages
9,396
Not always!

A few examples:
  • Cambridge - London : 7 Day Season (7DS) is £131.40 against an Anytime Day Return (SDR) of £44.40 (breakeven point 3 days)
  • Southend Victoria - London : 7 Day Season is £103.50, SDR is £32.40, breakeven point of 4 days
  • Ashford International - London via HS1 : 7DS is £171.10, SDR is £73.10, breakeven point of 3 days
  • Banbury - London : 7DS is £152.90, SDR is £84.70, breakeven with just 2 days of travel

Barry Doe in a recent RAIL column pointed out that, on the SWML, BR had a policy of under-pricing long distance seasons (e.g. from Southampton) to stimulate longer distance demand.

Another variable in the "New Normal" is the off-peak price for flexible workers. E.g. A Cambridge-Liverpool Street commuter with a Network Railcard need only pay £13 return travelling after 1000. That compares *very* favourably compared with even the per-day cost of an Annual Season ticket - it's practically Pay-As-You-Go.
 

deltic

Established Member
Joined
8 Feb 2010
Messages
2,211
Scrapping season tickets in an era where office workers don't travel as much may have a disproportionate impact on exactly the key workers who don't have any choice but to continue to travel.
The idea it that you scrap season tickets and peak fares - 5 return off-peak fares are generally cheaper than a weekly season ticket except for longer distance trips. Most people in this thread have just latched on to season tickets. Its a combined policy
 

MotCO

Established Member
Joined
25 Aug 2014
Messages
1,484
For what it's worth, Southern's delay repay scheme (and possibly those of other TOCs also) assumes the following usage for season tickets...

For an annual season ticket = 464 single journeys;

A six-monthly season ticket = 240 single journeys;

A quarterly season ticket = 120 single journeys;

A monthly season ticket = 40 single journeys;

And a weekly season ticket = 10 single journeys.

These work out as equivalent to 46.4 weeks, 24 weeks, 12 weeks, 4 weeks and 1 week respectively, assuming 10 journeys per month. I used to have 33 days annual leave each year, plus 10 bank holidays; this equates to commuting for 218 days per year, whereas an annual season assumes 232 days per year. Deduct any sick leave, and the perceived value / attraction of season tickets starts to evaporate.
 

yorkie

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Administrator
Joined
6 Jun 2005
Messages
50,888
Location
Yorkshire
This offers an opportunity to simplify the fare system by scraping peak time tickets ..
Would you increase any fares, or simply rename all Off Peak fares to 'Anytime' and increase taxpayer contributions to offset the loss revenue?

If so, that sounds great, if you can arrange for it to be paid for.
 

Bletchleyite

Veteran Member
Joined
20 Oct 2014
Messages
59,403
Location
"Marston Vale mafia"
The idea it that you scrap season tickets and peak fares - 5 return off-peak fares are generally cheaper than a weekly season ticket except for longer distance trips. Most people in this thread have just latched on to season tickets. Its a combined policy

No reason to scrap season tickets even if they are just priced at 5 returns (or slightly below). They are convenient when you are making the same journey repeatedly; no stopping to buy a ticket each day. Could be done a different way, though, e.g. rather than an actual season ticket you'd just buy packs of 5, 10, 20 etc of the same ticket on a smartcard carnet, perhaps with something like "buy 10 get one free".

As one example, SBB offer 6-single-journey (or 6-day-ticket in the Verbund areas) "clippercards" very much like what GMPTE used to have on buses. They aren't discounted, they just cost the same price as 6 of whatever the ticket is, but they're worth it for the convenience factor.
 

deltic

Established Member
Joined
8 Feb 2010
Messages
2,211
Would you increase any fares, or simply rename all Off Peak fares to 'Anytime' and increase taxpayer contributions to offset the loss revenue?

If so, that sounds great, if you can arrange for it to be paid for.
Simply rename off-peak fares to anytime. Railway finances are completely stuffed and there appears to be no plan to address the issue - peak fares exist as highlighted above in part to cover the cost of providing the infrastructure, rolling stock etc to meet that peak. If that peak no longer exists you can operate a standard 7 day week service with no additional peak services and reduce operating costs. Rail use has failed to exceed 40% of previous levels and at the moment the taxpayer is spending £bns moving fresh air around.

Building up demand again is key in the short to medium term. The future of rail is looking pretty bleak at present.
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
25,354
Location
Yorks
No reason to scrap season tickets even if they are just priced at 5 returns (or slightly below). They are convenient when you are making the same journey repeatedly; no stopping to buy a ticket each day. Could be done a different way, though, e.g. rather than an actual season ticket you'd just buy packs of 5, 10, 20 etc of the same ticket on a smartcard carnet, perhaps with something like "buy 10 get one free".

As one example, SBB offer 6-single-journey (or 6-day-ticket in the Verbund areas) "clippercards" very much like what GMPTE used to have on buses. They aren't discounted, they just cost the same price as 6 of whatever the ticket is, but they're worth it for the convenience factor.

I like the season ticket because you have the weekend journey as a loss leader.
 

35B

Member
Joined
19 Dec 2011
Messages
696
The idea it that you scrap season tickets and peak fares - 5 return off-peak fares are generally cheaper than a weekly season ticket except for longer distance trips. Most people in this thread have just latched on to season tickets. Its a combined policy
So what about the value to the vendor of having a season ticket‘s worth of cash up front? The benefit is mutual.
 

Ianno87

Established Member
Joined
3 May 2015
Messages
9,396
I like the season ticket because you have the weekend journey as a loss leader.

I really don't think that's a big thing to most season ticket purchasers. When doing the same journey 5 days a week most people are happy not to do it again at the weekend.

I.e. most people buy one for commuting use, rather than weekend use being the thing that sways them.
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
25,354
Location
Yorks
I really don't think that's a big thing to most season ticket purchasers. When doing the same journey 5 days a week most people are happy not to do it again at the weekend.

I.e. most people buy one for commuting use, rather than weekend use being the thing that sways them.

As I always say in these sort of discussions, if it's not a big thing for passengers, it's not a big thing to keep it.
 

SuperNova

Member
Joined
12 Dec 2019
Messages
291
Location
The North
Commuter traffic has collapsed and working from home for a considerable proportion of rail commuters is likely to continue long after Covid-19 is forgotten about. Business travel is also likely to reduce due to the massive take up of video-conferencing and organisations moving to net zero. This suggests that the reason for peak pricing is about to fall away, ie the need to discourage demand and to pay for extra infrastructure required to pay for peak services.

This offers an opportunity to simplify the fare system by scraping peak time tickets and discounted season tickets. The only fares would then be off-peak use on any train and advance tickets for specified services. Use of smart card or contactless cards would negate the need for daily buying of tickets for regular users.

There will of course be winners and losers but peak traffic as we knew it is unlikely to return

Why would the industry scrap season tickets? Those who are still travelling day in day out are largely season ticket holder. It still offers these customers the best value for money for travelling. Also I think from memory only 10% of jobs in this country can be done WFH - that may have increased slightly, but even then as of August around 60% of workers were back in the office for a period of time during the week as government were encouraging them to do so.

While the world of work has changed, it's naïve to think that companies will let people work from home all the time and that the government would allow that given the economic implications. Scrapping tax rebates for home workers and introduction of flexible season tickets are just two ways to alleviate some of the pressures the railway and economy are going to face.

I really don't think that's a big thing to most season ticket purchasers. When doing the same journey 5 days a week most people are happy not to do it again at the weekend.

I.e. most people buy one for commuting use, rather than weekend use being the thing that sways them.
Before I joined the rail industry, I'd use my ST at weekends for leisure travel, see friends or GF at the time and even sporting events. I'd even suggest those London commuters probably popped into the big smoke now and again on a weekend for an event of some sort.
 

Hadders

Established Member
Fares Advisor
Joined
27 Apr 2011
Messages
7,806
Consider the fares from my local station which is Stevenage to London. The fares are relatively simple in the grand scheme of things:

Anytime Day Return £23.30
Off Peak Day Return £17.90
Super Off Peak Day Return £12.20

It might seem attractive to abolish the Anytime fare and make the Off Peak Day Return available anytime. As a passenger I'd love it but there would be a number of issues:

- How would you make up the loss of revenue? In reality people travel early in the morning because they have to, they aren't discretionary journeys
- Some passengers might move to an earlier 'anytime' train but this wouldn't gain any more revenue for the railway
- What would you do if demand increased again. A fares increase of around 25% to travel in the peak (£17.90 to £23.30) would not go down well at all and be very damaging for the railway
 

Top