Daisy Cooper, the MP for St Albans, is calling for an urgent review of the new Flexi Season Ticket offer and reinstatement of peak-time Carnet tickets on Govia Thameslink trains.
Existing part-time commuters who currently use carnet tickets will have fewer ticket options and face paying more for journeys under the new Flexi Season system, Daisy writes in a letter1 to the transport minister, Grant Shapps, and the CEO of Govia Thameslink, Patrick Verwer.
“The new Flexi Season Ticket rates are anything but flexible for my constituents, many of whom will be worse off when peak Carnet tickets are withdrawn at the end of June,” she tells them.
Hardest hit, the MP points out, will be parents and carers who may have to alter their working pattern at short notice, or those in occupations with variable hours such as hospitality, many of whom are already lower paid than other occupations.
The new Flexi fares are only available in blocks of eight return journeys and must be used within 28 days, whereas Carnet tickets currently let part-time or flexible workers buy books of five or more tickets, valid for three months. They also offer the added flexibility of allowing travel in one direction at peak time and in the other during off-peak hours by purchasing separate Carnet options.
“Perversely the most cost-effective way to do this under the new system is to use the still available off-peak Carnet rates for one journey, and a contactless card payment for the peak journey – and this is still more expensive than the previously available option,” Daisy points out.
“It is absurd that part-time commuters should have to combine contactless and paper payment methods for their journey, depending on which direction they’re going in.”
Daisy is asking the minister and Govia Thameslink to reinstate the availability of peak carnet tickets while they reconsider extending the period of validity of the new season ticket offer.
“Having waited expectantly for the much-heralded transformation to flexible commuting, my constituents who usually use Carnet tickets have found the new fare structure to be more expensive and much less flexible than the options previously available to them.”
Jacqui Taylor, district councillor for St Peters, commented: “This so-called flexi season ticket does little for those now wishing, or being required by employers, to commute regularly three days per week.
“A traditional annual ticket is only cheaper if commuting four days a week or more, and this new ‘Flexi’ ticket is for just two days per week. If you input travelling three times a week for one month into Thameslink’s new season ticket calculator, it currently tells you that the Flexi Season Ticket costs more per day than an Anytime Day Return.
“For years the rail industry has been criticised for the complexity of its ticketing, including split-ticketing options being cheaper but not automatically offered by the ticket machines and websites.
“Now they have the opportunity to invent a decent, flexible, straightforward and cost-effective season ticket for part-time commuters, they’ve managed to come up with yet another complicated, inflexible ticket system.”
Chris White, leader of St Albans district council, added: “It beggars belief that the industry is actually going backwards when it comes to offering tickets which fit with the needs of commuters. I will be taking this up direct with the rail companies.”