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Flexible season tickets on sale from 21 June as Government unveils major rail overhaul

Flexible train season tickets will be available to buy across England from next month, as part of a wide-reaching Government shake-up of rail fares. A new refund system for delayed and cancelled trains has also been announced.

Below we explain what's happening under the Government's 'Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail', which the ministers have hailed as the biggest change to railways in 25 years. See our Cheap Train Tickets guide for more help on finding hidden fares and cutting costs by splitting tickets. 

How the new flexible season tickets will work

Flexible season tickets designed to save commuters in England "hundreds" will be available to buy from 21 June for travel from 28 June. Here's what we know about the tickets so far:

  • They will allow travel on any eight days in a 28-day period with no need to select the days of travel in advance. They will only be available in standard class but can be used for travel during peak and off-peak periods. In most cases you can use any operator between your start and end stations. 

  • They will be paperless, with passengers needing to tap smartcards or scan mobile barcodes at the station. Ask your train operator which method it will use, and bear in mind that if don’t have a Smartcard it can take up to five days to arrive by post, according to the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) which represents rail firms.   

  • They're designed for passengers travelling two to three days a week. Passengers travelling one day a week will likely be better off buying daily tickets, while passengers travelling more than four days a week will typically be better off with conventional season tickets that will still be available. The Government says affordable walk-on fares and season ticket prices will be "protected".

  • They will be available from all Department for Transport-franchised train operating companies excluding 'Wales and Borders' franchises. This means you WON'T be able to get flexi fares on ScotRail, Transport for Wales, Merseyrail, TfL Rail, Heathrow Express, London Overground or from 'open access operators', which are non-franchised companies including the likes of Hull Trains and Grand Central. 

  • Most Railcard users will be unable to use their cards on top. 16-17 Saver and Job Centre Plus Travel Discount Card holders will be able to get 50% off their flexi season ticket but no other Railcard or group discounts will apply. 

  • Example savings which the Government has given, compared to an annual season ticket, include: 

    - Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street - expected savings of over £360 for those commuting two days a week and over £300 for those commuting three-days a week.
    - York to Leeds - expected to save over £210 commuting two days a week with a flexible ticket, and over £200 commuting three days a week.

    However we've not yet been able to do our own number-crunching on a sample of flexible season ticket prices, including how they'll compare to buying daily tickets. When more details are announced we'll be doing a full analysis - for all our rail cost-cutting tips, see the Cheap Train Tickets guide. You can also see more details on the National Rail Enquiries website. 

Other measures announced include a new system for refunds

Other key measures announced by the Government include the following: 

  • A single compensation system for operators in England will be created. This will provide a "simple system" for passengers to access information and apply for refunds. There's no further detail available yet on how this will work or when it's expected to launch. We'll update our Train Delays guide when we know more. Currently, each individual train operator has its own refund policy.   

  • There will be a "significant" roll-out of Pay As You Go, contactless and digital ticketing on smartphones.
  • A new public body called "Great British Railways" will be set-up. This will integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables. But this isn't a nationalisation of the railways and individual, privately run train operators will remain. A new Great British Railways website will also sell tickets. 

    It's unclear if this will apply across England, Scotland and Wales (rail fares in Northern Ireland are managed by Translink, the company which runs public transport in Northern Ireland) and if the current system of regulated and unregulated fares will remain. We've asked DfT and will update this story when we know more.
    Third party ticket sites will, however, still be able to sell these new fares. 

Commenting on the news, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I am a great believer in rail, but for too long passengers have not had the level of service they deserve.

"By creating Great British Railways, and investing in the future of the network, this Government will deliver a rail system the country can be proud of."  

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