Are you weighing up the cost of an annual season ticket? Me too. But committing to a whole year… that’s a long time. So why is there no such thing as a three or six-month season ticket?
Train tickets are expensive. Particularly when travelling into the nation’s capital from, say, most places.
Luckily, to avoid us handing over vast wads of cash on a daily basis, season tickets are available. Existing in seven-day, monthly and annual forms, if you’re a regular train traveller they can save you a lot of money.
If you’re a commuter who takes the train five days a week, this Conversation deals with an issue that is likely to affect you. Or if you commute less frequently but still need a season ticket, check out the Campaign for Better Transport’s guest Conversation on flexible season tickets.
‘But wait!’ I hear you shout, ‘of course there are three and six-month tickets’ – the National Rail Enquiries online season ticket calculator clearly displays seven-day, one-month, three-month, six-month and annual season ticket options by default.
But season tickets are seemingly only sold in seven-day, monthly and annual form – with each tier offering a significant saving on the last. It turns out that the three and six-month prices are for illustrative purposes only.
This is my problem. It’s a big leap from monthly to annual, and I want some intermediary steps that offer reasonable savings.
The Cambridge commuting conundrum
Let me present you with an example journey. Cambridge is less than an hour away from King’s Cross, and by almost pure coincidence, is just where I happen to commute from. Here is what someone like me, who commutes in from Cambridge five days a week, would pay (prices do not include tube travel):
- £36.00 per day for an anytime return ticket (or £180 for five daily tickets)
- £106.00 for a weekly season ticket (weekly saving of £74 or 41% on five daily tickets)
- £407.10 for a monthly season ticket (monthly saving of £52.23 or 11% on equivalent weekly tickets)
- £4,240 for an annual season ticket (annual saving of £645.2 or 13% on 12 monthly tickets)
Six months, as quoted on the National Rail Enquiries season ticket calculator, would cost £2,442.30 – that’s a magnificent saving of 30p compared with six separate monthly tickets.
For three months its £1,221.20, you’ll save 10p compared to three separate monthly tickets. Amounts so negligible it’s almost not worth mentioning.
Do you want another option?
Why can’t train companies offer multiple season tickets that offer a saving for every month booked at once? That is, a four month ticket offers a better discount than three month tickets, which in turn is better than a two month ticket.
Our rail expert Richard Dilks comments:
‘An industry that’s actually focused on meeting customers’ needs would have come up with something more flexible than what’s currently on offer. The Department for Transport is currently running a ticketing review and is explicitly asking for passengers’ views on the issues debated. One of those issues is more flexibility in ticketing.’
Could you see yourself making use of three-month, six-month or nine-month train tickets if they offered a reasonable discount at each stage?