Train season ticket use collapses as more people work from home | Business News

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The proportion of people travelling by train with season tickets has shrunk to its lowest level since records began.

Just 13% of trips in Great Britain were made using the tickets in the year to the end of March – down from more than a third in the year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said “changing travel patterns” was the reason for the fall, amid a sharp increase in people working from home either full-time or a number of days a week.

Rising ticket prices and complaints over the reliability of rail services have also been blamed.

Season tickets can offer passengers better value for money if they travel on a service five days a week – but an increasing number are no longer doing so.

They include Ashley Holmes, 40, who used to commute daily from his home in the Hampshire town of Fleet to London.

However, since the pandemic, he now works from home for part of the week.

The digital designer told Sky News: “Annual season tickets are just too expensive. My one used to cost around £3,500 – it is currently around £5,000.

“Now I commute to my office three days a week, which still costs a good chunk of my monthly salary. However, it works out slightly cheaper.”

Mr Holmes added: “I wouldn’t mind so much, but the train service I use is often unreliable, as well as sometimes being cramped and uncomfortable.”

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The ORR said a total of 1.6 billion train journeys were made in the 12 months to the end of March – a 16% increase on the previous year.

However, it said the 13% of journeys made using season tickets – down from 17% in 2021/22 and 15% in 2022/23 – was the lowest since such records began in 1987.

The rail industry was historically reliant on many commuters – particularly in south-east England – purchasing expensive annual season tickets for a large chunk of its total revenue.

Train firms have been trying to reverse the downward trend in recent years, including by introducing flexible ticket ranges aimed at commuters who no longer travel five days a week.

However, their take-up has been minimal, and the bundles have also been criticised for offering little or no extra savings.

A change in the law introduced earlier this year made it easier for staff to request flexible working, and employers are increasingly offering alternative arrangements in attempts to entice talented new staff.

Last year, more than a third of bosses reported an increase in staff working from home, with cost-of-living pressures putting further strain on the price of commuting.

However, changing working patterns have caused struggles for some businesses.

The publishers of the Evening Standard newspaper announced last month that it would scrap its daily print edition amid “substantial losses”, partly because its readership had dropped as more people were working from home.

The ORR also revealed that in the year to the end of March, rail revenue from passengers was £10.3bn – a fall from £12.7bn in 2019/20 before COVID-19 – despite the total number of journeys being made recovering to 93%.


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