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New fares debate looms as campaigners call for restraint

TRANSPORT campaigners are calling on the government not to use the Retail Price Index to decide the extent of fare rises in the New Year, and to move forward quickly with plans to introduce ‘part time’ season tickets.

The calls have come a day before the RPI for July is published. This figure is the usual benchmark index which sets the January changes each year.

The results of a survey carried out by the transport watchdog Transport Focus suggest that most rail commuters expect to work from home more often in the future, even after the pandemic.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘People’s feelings about travel, and the way they use public transport, have changed. While rail leisure travel may bounce back, our research tells us almost two in three former rail commuters expect to work from home more so we will probably now travel less for work, both commuting and on business.

‘The Government need to get train companies to offer a combination of cut-price deals, carnet style “bundles”, flexible season tickets for commuters and better value for money fares across the board. To get Britain moving again in the coming months, tickets that fit the way we live and travel now are needed, not just season tickets designed for city gents in the last century.

‘Like the Government’s restaurant deal, we need a “Head Out to Help Out” campaign to help get the country on the move again, boost the economy and reduce traffic on our roads.

The RMT’s senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The reality is many commuters and their firms will be holding off purchasing season tickets for 2021 as home working becomes a long term feature. There will be a massive drop in demand for conventional season tickets and unless the demand for more flexible tickets and affordable tickets is met commuters will permanently abandon the railway.

‘The Government must rebuild passenger confidence and encourage passengers back to the railway by giving them what they want: flexible ticketing that’s good value and suits their needs as part of the Covid-19 recovery.

‘The vested interest of the Train Operating Companies has meant flexible ticketing has not been introduced because they believe it will hit the profits for their shareholders.’

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