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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Disappointment as Government blocks flexible rail ticketing

October 15, 2020 8:09 PM

Rail operators recognise the needs of the growing numbers of people who need to combine home-working with part-time commuting to their office or other place of work. Proposals for flexible ticketing were presented to the Government back in July. Three months later, the Government is still sitting on its hands as it continues to discourage rail travel during the Covid pandemic.

Rob Bird, the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition at Kent CC, wrote to the Rail Minister back in May pressing him to work with the rail operators to introduce carnets and other flexible ticketing to help part-time commuters and reduce queuing at ticket offices and ticket machines. The Minister replied enthusiastically and confirmed that the Government was working with the rail operators to introduce flexible ticketing options as quickly as possible. Rob Bird

Rob also received a positive response from David Statham, the Managing Director of Southeastern. He subsequently confirmed that Southeastern and other rail operators had submitted their proposals to the Government in July. But, despite concerted pressure from commuters, MPs and local councillors, the Government has done nothing since then.

David Statham expressed his frustration with the lack of progress at Tuesday's Kent Rail Summit. Passengers want more flexible ticketing options; Southeastern and other rail operators want to offer more flexible ticketing options. But, until the Government gives the green light, part-time commuters are forced to buy tickets on a day-to-day basis, the most expensive and least convenient option.

Rob Bird commented: "This is very disappointing, particularly as back in May the Rail Minister promised that the Government would work with the Rail Delivery Group to ascertain 'what steps could be taken quickly to make [flexible ticketing] as useful and convenient for passengers as possible'. Instead, the Government has been blocking the rail operators' proposals for flexible ticketing for the past 3 months.

"The pandemic has changed the way many people work. But, whilst home-working can have many advantages, collaborative working in the office environment is still vital for many professions.

"The rail operators have listened to the needs of their customers. They have taken considerable steps to make train journeys as safe as possible. They have also recognised that many commuters no longer need to travel 5 days a week, every week and that many people and their employers are likely to continue with these new ways of working once the pandemic is over.

"Instead of blocking progress, the Government should be encouraging Southeastern and other rail operators to introduce more flexible ticketing as soon as possible."