Flexible rail season tickets: How they’ll work

The Flexi ticket could be a money saver for those commuting two or three days a week.

From late June 2021 you’ll finally be able to buy season tickets for train travel that support flexible working. It’s part of a wider review of how railways will run in the UK – though those changes won’t happen for a few years.

Here’s what we know so far about how the new season tickets will work and how to get them. Plus when you might be better off with a different kind of ticket.

How flexible rail season tickets will work

The tickets – known as Flexi Season tickets – will allow eight days of travel across a four week (28-day) period. You can use those days however you want and there’s no need to prebook or select in advance when you want to travel.

So you could use them for two days a week for those four weeks, or mix and match any combination, though the savings will be less or non-existent if you use all the journeys in a much shorter period.

You can’t carry over any unused days, though you can ask for a refund which will be subject to a fee (max £10).

Travel can be at peak and off-peak times (so anytime) and any day. As with standard season tickets it’ll be between two stations and you can even stop or break your journey on the way if you want. You’ll need to buy an add-on for any extra parts of the journey.

However, they’re only for standard class tickets, and there are some train companies excluded. These include those in Wales, TFL Rail, the London Underground, Heathrow Express and ScotRail.

Using Flexi season tickets

They’ll be paperless. Instead you’ll need to use a barcode sent by email, via an app or a ‘Smartcard’. Not all companies will offer every option.

If you want to use it via your rail company’s app you’ll usually need to activate the ticket before your journey. It’ll likely also have a barcode to scan at ticket barriers.

To use a Smartcard you’ll just tap it on the reader as you would with contactless payments. This activates the journey and deducts one of your trips from the monthly total.

How much money will you save?

Actual prices haven’t been published yet, but when they do there will also be a calculator to help you decide which ticket option is best for you.

What has been said is that it should be cheaper than an individual ticket for people who travel at least twice a week during peak times. And it can also be assumed that if you travel four or five days in a single week then a weekly season ticket will be better value.

A few example savings have been published by the government. Those travelling twice a week on the journeys below would save the following:

  • over £250 from Woking to London
  • over £200 from York to Leeds
  • over £60 from Southampton Central to Winchester
  • over £160 from Stafford to Birmingham
  • over £220 from Liverpool to Manchester

And if you are travelling three days a week you could save the following on these journeys:

  • over £220 from St Albans City to London
  • over £120 from Bromsgrove to Birmingham
  • over £90 from Weston-Super-Mare to Bristol Temple Meads
  • over £330 from Chelmsford to Stratford

So potentially pretty decent savings will be around. We’ll have to wait and see if similar amounts are reflected on other routes.

When other tickets might be cheaper

So apart from the obvious weekly, monthly and annual season tickets for those commuting four or five days a week, there’s one exception worth looking at in more detail when prices are released.

TFL Rail, buses and tube journeys won’t be included, which means for those working in London there could be a chunk you have to pay on top. If you’re commuting from within the London zones then it might be cheaper to use pay-as-you-go which has daily and weekly caps. Again, it’ll be one to check once prices are revealed.

When you’ll by able to buy the tickets

Flexi season tickets go on sale 21 June 2021, but you won’t be able to start using them until a week later on 28 June.

To get the smartcard you can either order them online from your rail company or ask at a station – though it varies by each company. For some it’s post only and it can take up to five days for one to arrive. Here’s a quick link to all the train operator’s smartcard application forms.

Other changes coming to trains and train tickets

The Flexi tickets are a part of a huge shake-up of how trains and railways are run in the UK. The management of both will be brought together under a national, state-owned body called Great British Railways.

The separate train franchises will continue to operate the different routes, but under the one joined-up organisation.

This could also mean some big changes on the way in terms of ticket prices if policies are standardised.

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