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Following Transport for the North (TfN) investment in smart travel technology, Northern have launched the region’s first smart ‘flexi’ season tickets in time for passengers returning to the railway and anticipated changes in travel routines due to COVID-19.
The move is part of a bigger drive to deliver London-style, contactless payment systems across the North’s outdated public transport networks.
The new season tickets – now available initially on Northern and LNER services between Leeds and Harrogate stations only – are loaded to smartcards and give passengers 10 unlimited travel days for the price of 9 valid for 6 months.
Jeremy Acklam, TfN’s Director of Integrated and Smart Travel, said: “The launch of flexi seasons is a major and timely milestone in our mission to transform travel across the North of England.
“Now more than ever, due to the impact of coronavirus on our travel habits, passengers need safer, better value and more convenient ways to pay for public transport. Flexi seasons will provide this for thousands of passengers.”
Planned for rollout on further routes, the tickets guarantee value and flexibility in a world where passengers say they’re unlikely to return to 5-day-week commute.
With a recent Transport Focus survey of passengers showing over one third expect work to be primarily homebased with limited travel to the workplace in the future, flexible and convenient ticketing is a priority for TfN who are committed to supporting the safe return to public transport use when the time is right.
Mark Powles, Customer and Commercial Director at Northern, said: “Our customers’ working lives have changed significantly in the past few months and the flexible season tickets will provide a way for rail travel with Northern to reflect those changes.
“With Transport for the North’s support, the new tickets will allow our customers to load 10 day-passes between two stations onto a smart card which can then be used at any time in a six-month period. So, unlike a normal season ticket, customers now only have to pay for the days they travel. Initially, we are trialling the new flexi-season ticket for journeys between Harrogate and Leeds, but plan to roll the scheme out to other parts of the Northern network in the coming months.”
TfN is pushing ahead as part of its £150 million Integrated and Smart Travel programme (IST), with the next stage proposing to deliver more contactless payment technology on the North’s train and tram platforms.
TfN is seeking approval from the Department for Transport to spend more funds from the ringfenced budget so it can rapidly extend the flexis seasons initiative across the whole of the North.
The subnational transport body has already installed ‘tap-in-tap-out’ systems on platforms at 90 stations as well as moving the majority of season ticket-holders from paper to smart cards. Region-wide enablement will benefit travellers at over 300-additional stations. It will also provide a stepping-stone to London-style pay as you go travel using contactless bank cards or smartphones for public transport payments.
Jeremy Acklam, added: “To realise the benefits of flexi seasons and contactless travel we are now calling on the Department for Transport to green light the next stage so we can move at pace to roll the technology out more widely across the region’s entire rail network. We are in a position to start work tomorrow on the delivery of this scheme which would improve the way we use public transport for the millions of people living and working across our region.
“To tackle some of the biggest challenges of our day including cutting carbon emissions and the levelling up of the North’s economy we need to invest in ambitious, forward looking projects now. Our message to the Prime Minister and the Government is clear, Transport for the North is ready to make flexible, contactless ticketing a reality, let’s get moving.”
A supporting strategic outline for contactless travel on rail was recently submitted to the DfT for their consideration, and the wider rollout of flexis was included as a priority scheme in TfN’s proposed Economic Recovery Plan to rebuild and transform the North post-Covid-19 which was sent to Government last month.
Commenting on the launch on the launch of flexi tickets in the North, David Sidebottom of Transport Focus said: “We know that rail passengers want to get seats on more punctual, reliable and value for money services. The launch of the flexi season ticket is a big step in delivering better value for money for rail commuters in the north of England. Nearly half of those we asked in our latest research do not expect to immediately go back to their regular level of daily commuting.”
To find out more about our Integrated and Smart Travel programme here.