Time for a fair deal for flexi commuters
The Fair Fares Now Campaign is working with commuters and MPs to end discriminatory fare structures and win equality for part-time commuters. Lianna Etkind calls for more people to join the campaign and, collectively, make rail fares fair!
It used to be seen as the ‘Mummy-shift’. But thanks to the hard work of organisations like Timewise and the HireMeMyWay campaign, more and more organisations are now reaping the benefits of flexible working. Whether its facilitating employees to work from home a couple of times a week, enabling part-time working at senior levels, or advertising all jobs as open to flexible working, blue chip companies including Deloitte, Amazon and Sky are recognising that flexible working practices enable them to recruit and retain talent.
It’s therefore incredibly frustrating to see the rail industry standing in the way of this progress. Despite a Government manifesto commitment in 2015 to introduce flexible ticketing, train companies’ season tickets remain stuck in a 1950s model of Monday to Friday working, calculated on a five-day week basis. Whether through carnets or through a flexi-ticket product, giving part-time passengers fair deal isn’t rocket science. In fact, more than twenty countries across Europe already do this.
Part-time workers already earn less than full-time workers, and many are also hit hard by the cost of childcare. Having to pay over the odds to get to work is yet another hit to part-time workers. Factor in that most part-time workers are women, and it starts to look like yet another discriminatory practice. And it’s not just part-timers who are disadvantaged by train companies’ refusal to get with the times. Freelancers, people working compressed hours, and people who work from home a few days a week face higher transport costs too.
The failure of the Government to mandate a season ticket designed around flexible workers is hitting our pockets, and our choices. One woman told us:
I have a child, so I work two days in the office (Canary Wharf) and one day from home. Paying for nursery three days per week and peak travel passing through Zone One makes it hardly worth my while to work.
The lack of fair flexi tickets is a barrier for people to progress in their chosen career. When you’re paying for a five-day a week season ticket that you only use four days, it can become financially unviable to take up that exciting job which requires commuting, over the less challenging local job. For some, the costs of commuting part-time mean that having a job at all doesn’t add up. One part-time commuter in Ashford told us that mums she knew had quit their jobs following the birth of their child, because they simply couldn’t justify the costs of travelling to work in London part-time.
Since the Government pledged to introduce flexible ticketing, campaigners have worked hard to keep this issue on the agenda, and we’ve seen some significant progress. An army of Fair Fares Now supporters wrote to the Government during the InterCity West Coast franchise consultation and asked for fair part-time season tickets to be mandated in the franchise. And last year saw the first franchise documents (for SouthWest trains and for the West Midlands line) that required bidders to provide a better deal for part-time commuters.
However, we’re still a long way off from equality. It’s not enough for train companies to offer a ticketing product which is marketed as a ‘flexi-ticket’ if the savings remain a fraction of what full-time commuters get. Essex train company c2c announced their flexi-ticket last year with much fanfare, but the discount on the normal peak fare is only 5%, compared to 23% for full time commuters.
So there’s much to be done! If you’re affected by the lack of part-time season tickets, or if you care about this issue, please add your voice to the campaign.