Flexible commuter tickets could support shift to greener travel


New train tickets for commuters who will be flexible working post-pandemic are now available and may even support a shift towards greener commuting.

The changes have been introduced with the intention of supporting employees who want to keep homeworking as an option after COVID restrictions have been fully lifted.  

From 2023, the new state-owned body, Great British Railways (GBR), will set rail timetables and prices, sell tickets in England and manage rail infrastructure.

However, the new flexible season tickets have been introduced ahead of the structural changes and can be used from 28 June 2021.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the new tickets would offer greater freedom and choice about how we travel, simpler ticketing and a fairer fare.

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Greater focus on having employees commute to work by train could also benefit the environment.

New IPPR research has found the current approach to decarbonising transport in the UK could see a 28% increase in car in use by 2050, and an 11% increase in car traffic.

The think tank has argued UK government must focus on affordable and clean transport alternatives to cut overall car use.

Becca Massey Chase, deputy head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said the new flexible tickets could be a step towards greener commuting in the UK, but won't solve the problem of high ticket prices.

She told HR magazine:Any move to make travelling by public transport easier, more convenient and affordable is to be welcomed.

"However, there are already concerns that these tickets will not reduce the costs of travelling for many commuters or ensure that using public transport is the affordable and easy option."

Chase said transport providers need to do more to offer services that will suit the new working patterns many UK employees now have.

She said: “As more people work flexibly from home after the pandemic, schemes need to be put in place that ensure that public transport or walking and cycling are the first choice for the commute.

"Currently, too many people do not have access to these options in a way that is affordable, safe and convenient."

Chase said the IPPR has called for a national guarantee for levels of transport and digital connectivity with the stated aim of making it possible to work and live a good life, wherever you live, without needing to own a car.

According to the IPPR research, the UK's current plans to de-carbonise the country are not enough and more needs to be done to offer sustainable ways of travelling. 

It recommended public transport must be available seven days a week for connectivity for all rural areas, so that cars do not need to be used every day, and that accessibility to everyday essentials should require no more than a 20-minute walk, cycle or public transport trip.

Chase said this will require investment in both public transport and revitalising local town centres.

"Investment in walking and cycling during this parliament should be at least £6 billion," she added.

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