Will Flexi rail tickets actually save you money?

Plus, why you need to be careful with the season ticket calculator.

Flexible train season tickets that let you buy in bulk for travel a few days a week are now on sale – and with that the ability to see just how much less you could pay for your trip.

Not sure what Flexi season tickets are? Read Flexible rail season tickets: How they’ll work

When will Flexi season tickets save you money?

Prior to tickets going on sale, the Government said is that it should be cheaper for people who travel at least twice a week during peak times.

If you do save money there’s a chance you could be looking at hundreds of pounds less each year. But there’s no guarantee – one commuter shared how he’d only save £7.

And don’t expect savings similar to what you’d get with an annual season ticket. Though you might pay less overall per year, you won’t save as much per journey.

The actual discount will depend on your journey, but I took a look at some different variations to give you an idea.

Will you save if you travel twice a week?

Looking at a few prices it certainly seems true for most journeys when you go two days a week.

They should work out less than buying the same number of daily tickets, and less than getting the annual or monthly season tickets.

East Didsbury to Manchester Piccadilly, two days a week

Day returnFlexi seasonWeekly seasonMonthly seasonAnnual season
Ticket cost£6.50£45.50£23.50£90.30£940.00
Annual cost (assuming two weeks off)£650.00£591.50£1,175.00£1,083.60£940.00
Cost per day£6.50£5.92£11.75£10.84£9.40
data correct June 22 2021

Brighton to London, two days a week

Day returnFlexi seasonWeekly seasonMonthly seasonAnnual season
Ticket cost£45.60£319.20£107.90£414.40£4,316.00
Annual cost (assuming two weeks off)£4,560.00£4,149.60£5,395.00£4,972.80£4,316.00
Cost per day£45.60£41.50£53.95£49.73£43.16
data correct June 22 2021

In the first table, the saving going from Didsbury to Manchester Picadilly twice a week would cost £60 less a year compared to paying daily.

For the more expensive Brighton to London journey the saving is £400 less than daily travel and still £165 less than an annual season ticket.

Will you save if you travel three days a week?

There are definitely journeys where you’ll also save if you travel three days a week – but it’s not always the case as our two examples show.

East Didsbury to Manchester Piccadilly, three days a week

Day returnFlexi seasonWeekly seasonMonthly seasonAnnual season
Ticket cost£6.50£45.50£23.50£90.30£940.00
Annual cost (assuming two weeks off)£975.00£773.50£1,175.00£1,083.60£940.00
Cost per day£6.50£5.16£7.83£7.22£6.27
data correct June 22 2021

Brighton to London, three days a week

Day returnFlexi seasonWeekly seasonMonthly seasonAnnual season
Ticket cost£45.60£319.20£107.90£414.40£4,316.00
Annual cost (assuming two weeks off)£6,840.00£5,426.40£5,395.00£4,972.80£4,316.00
Cost per day£45.60£36.18£35.97£33.15£28.77
data correct June 22 2021

Though the Flexi-season is cheaper all-round on the first journey between Didsbury and Manchester, that’s not the case for Brighton to London.

Here the Flexi will still cost less than buying daily tickets, but it’s more than a grand more expensive when compared to the price of an annual season ticket.

Will you save money if you travel four or five days a week?

I couldn’t find any examples where a Flexi ticket is cheaper if you travel four or five days in a single week. A weekly, monthly or annual season ticket will be better value for money. Here are some tricks to help you afford an annual rail season ticket

Will you save money if you travel one day a week?

If you are going by train just once a day, you’ll still be better off with a day return.

Working out your savings

You can now use the Season Ticket calculator to work out if you’re better off with a Flexi ticket compared to the other options. This presents you with the amount you’ll spend to get your ticket, and has a handy “cost per day” option too, so you can compare the options.

This is really useful, but it’s not perfect. In my tests I’ve found some significant flaws with this calculator. Here’s what to watch out for.

It miscalculates the number of Flexi tickets needed in year

If you choose the two days a week option, the annual cost for the flexible season ticket is calculated on 12 separate purchases. But there are actually 13 lots of 28 days in a year. So you’d need to add on the cost of an extra pass to get a true annual comparison.

East Didsbury to Manchester PicadillyCalculator resultsReal results
Flexi ticket cost (8 tickets)£45.50£45.50
Weeks covered if travel two days a week44
Annual cost£546.00£591.50
Number of weeks covered4852
data correct June 22 2021

It’s messy to compare four weeks and a month

It’s also confusing when comparing monthly tickets with a four-week Flexi ticket. Obviously, a month lasts a full month rather than four weeks, so you’ll get the odd extra day. This extra day is reflected when you compare by “month”, but missing when you compare by “4 weeks”. Yet that extra day (more or less) hasn’t ceased to exist.

Calculations don’t always use all the Flexi tickets

This seems to only be relevant if you’re picking the three days a week option. With this amount of travel you’d use the eight tickets up in just under two and a half weeks.

Since for a four-week period you’ll travel 12 times, you’d need to buy two Flexi seasons to do this. However you’d still have four tickets left to use before you need to buy another eight.

Yet in some search options (one month for example), the calculator will show the total cost you’d pay for that period and works out the daily cost within that period. But that’s only true if you don’t then use the remaining tickets the next month.

As you can see from the table below the daily price can change a lot when calculated this way. This is for Brighton to London where a Flexi season ticket costs £319.20 for eight tickets, meaning the true cost of each journey is £39.90 if you use all your tickets.

Ticket length2 weeks3 weeks1 month1 month 1 week1 month 2 weeks2 months
Total cost shown£319.20£638.40£638.40£638.40£957.60£957.60
Cost per day shown£53.20£70.93£53.20£42.56£53.20£39.90
Tickets used6912151824
Remaining tickets274160
data correct June 22 2021

But you can see that in all but the final variation (2 months), the calculations per day are based on using just some of the tickets you’ve paid fore.

To get around this I’d suggest you compare over one year rather than shorter periods. The problem could still be there but it’ll less of an issue when looked at over a longer time.

Other factors to consider

Once you’ve got your head around the calculator and what you’ll pay it might seem quite cut and dried as to whether a Flexi-season saves you money. But there are a few other costs you might need to take into account.

Have you accounted for holidays

When I was a regular commuter I tried to time my holidays around breaks in my season ticket. It wasn’t always possible, especially with annual tickets.

But with weekly or Flexi season tickets you’re more likely to be able to stop paying for your travel when you’re away. Yet the calculations are all based on 52 weeks of travel. So this brings down the daily price result for annual and monthly passes but increases the total spend for some Flexi and all weekly passes.

This isn’t really a flaw with the calculator, but it’s something you might want to factor in.

You lose flexibility

Are you likely to take that journey more often than you’ve planned? It could be a busy period at work or perhaps social events. If this is something that is likely to happen most months or even at certain points in the year, it’s worth adding up how much more it would cost to cover them.

That could make the difference between using a Flexi and going for an annual ticket much smaller – and you might decide you’d rather pay a little more to get that flexibility.

Tickets don’t include London travel

Flexible season tickets don’t currently include any extra journeys you need to make once you arrive in London on the tube, TFL rail or the bus.

If you need this as part of your commute work out how much more that will cost and add it on to the price. Then compare it to a weekly, monthly or annual season ticket where those journeys can be included.

Off-peak travel might be cheaper

Price for the Flexi ticket, and those used in the calculator, are based on trains leaving at peak times. If you can travel outside the busiest hours then prices will drop.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.