Letter from Transport Secretary about train tickets


I appreciate you taking the time to share your suggestions about the introduction and benefits of flexible season tickets. The Government recognises the change in modern commuting patterns, the impact of COVID19 and therefore the need to accommodate a more flexible style of working and travelling.

In response, the Department has proactively worked with the rail industry, and is currently considering proposals received from train operators that try to ensure better value and convenience for part-time and flexible commuters and support those returning to the railway.

My Department remains committed to delivering wholesale reform of the rail industry to put the priorities of passengers first. The Williams Rail Review was in the final stages at the outbreak of COVID-19. I view the purpose of the reforms as important as ever, but further work needs to be done now to reflect the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.

We are progressing with this work and are continuing to examine a range of options to reform the railways, including how we can accelerate our modernisation plans in light of a changed post-COVID world.


  1. JohnE
    September 23, 2020

    Ticket inspectors aren’t currently inspecting tickets are they? I hear some passengers have worked out this presents opportunities.

    1. Peter
      September 23, 2020

      Perhaps they are working from home.

      1. Lifelogic
        September 24, 2020

        Well they have to as the trains can be so unreliable and expensive!

  2. Lifelogic
    September 23, 2020

    “My Department remains committed to delivering wholesale reform of the rail industry to put the priorities of passengers first.”

    Clearly not remotely concerned about the interests of the tax payer or they would have cancelled HS2 years back. Passengers also get very poor service much of the time too.

  3. Iain Gill
    September 23, 2020

    I hope the “Grand Central train” services are kept for the sake of the people of the many Northern Stations they serve that those in central government in the South East tend to forget. Just because they are an open access operator does not make their service any less important.

    After all the Conservatives are supposed to be “leveling up” just such places, letting their train services fall by the wayside will not be a good look.

  4. Fred H
    September 23, 2020

    ‘committed to delivering wholesale reform of the rail industry to put the priorities of passengers first.’

    And the taxpayer!
    The review needs to understand the public do not want the £billions spent on HS2. Ticketing needs to allow 2 or 3 trips per week to a chosen fixed location, or credit carried forward – perhaps a 10 trips type of pre-purchase?
    I imagine most travellers will want improved seating on longer, more frequent trains – but allow fewer between rush hours. Stations should have up-to-the minute information boards as to when the next train is due- and its progress further down the line.

  5. Everhopeful
    September 23, 2020

    Oh dear!
    No more trains then? Benching revisited and a big muddy puddle where HS2 was meant to go.
    And the EU will own that rotten, island-destroying tunnel.

    1. Everhopeful
      September 23, 2020

      Sorry…iPad yuk!
      Benching = BEECHING

      1. hefner
        September 24, 2020

        No, owner of iPad, yuk. Unable to disable predictive text, aren’t you?

  6. Peter
    September 23, 2020

    Not many on trains into Waterloo, or on various Tube lines.

    I have seen buses with ‘bus full’ notices though. That is currently 30 people on a London double decker.

    The man on the Clapham omnibus

  7. Richard
    September 23, 2020

    In a sane world reduced demand, excess capacity, cheap signalling technology would all mean that saving £100Bn by Cancelling HS2 was a foregone conclusion.

    But I fear that in the mad hatter parallel universe that is Downing Street & Whitehall, “modernisation plans in light of a changed post-COVID world” means something else entirely.

  8. Roy Grainger
    September 23, 2020

    “Considering proposals”. What’s the betting we never heard about this again.

  9. NickC
    September 23, 2020

    JR, If “the Government recognises the change in modern commuting patterns”, why won’t it cancel HS2? NASA says it can get astronauts to the Moon in 2024 for £23bn ($30bn, Spaceflight Now), yet HS2 can’t reach Birmingham by 2028 for £100bn+. I had much rather the UK got to the Moon in 2024 than have a quarter of HS2.

  10. Nigel
    September 23, 2020

    More waffle. Yawn yawn.

  11. Andy
    September 23, 2020

    Talking of transport, I see Mr Gove has confirmed that lorry drivers will need access permits just to drive into Kent from January. He is worried about unnecessary lorries turning up to add to the congestion caused by the new Brexit Bureaucracy Centres – also known as a Farage Garage.

    I wonder why they call this pointless bit of Brexit paperwork the Kent Access Permit (KAP) and not the Kent Road Access Permit which at least has a more appropriate acronym.

    1. Anonymous
      September 24, 2020


  12. Narrow Shoulders
    September 23, 2020

    The tome of this letter suggests that there would be subsidies given by government to train operators for these tickets.

    No, no, no – pay for your own travel I do not want to subsidise it.

    My tax is wasted enough as it is

    1. acorn
      September 24, 2020

      NS. ‘The total cost of running the railways was £19.5bn, a 2.7% increase from 2015-16. Around 59% of these costs were incurred by train operators, 35% managing the network, and 6% by freight, High Speed 1 and other components of the industry,’ the ORR report states.

      In 2016-17, passengers paid in £10.5bn to the system, including £9.7bn from fares and the rest other operations such as on-train catering and car parking charges. ORR analysis found that on average, government contributed £1.53 per passenger journey in England, £6.08 in Scotland and £8.82 in Wales.”

      PS. See https://www.transport-network.co.uk/Passengers-take-on-more-of-the-costs-of-running-rail/14754

  13. Martin in Cardiff
    September 23, 2020

    Will we need a special ticket – a de facto passport – to cross the border into Kent, another part of England, like lorry drivers will with their trucks, according to Gove?

    This “cutting of European Union red tape” is going awfully well, isn’t it?

    1. Edward2
      September 24, 2020

      If the EU deliberately play up and cause the UK problems then the government has to prepare.

    2. a-tracy
      September 24, 2020

      Martin, can you provide me the quote where Gove said “lorry drivers will require a de facto passport/special ticket to get into Kent” please.

    3. No Longer Anonymous
      September 24, 2020

      Shall we have another BLM riot to cheer you up and make you feel ‘exhilarated’ ?

      Have a little dance, eh ?

      You’re not gloating at the demise of Brexit. You’re gloating at the demise of England.

      1. Fred H
        September 24, 2020

        We ought to start building more castles to defend Kent from invaders.

  14. Nigl
    September 23, 2020

    Thin on actual information and no time scales, just a polite push back really albeit I suppose difficult times.

    All important work looking at the effects of COVID I guess says don’t hold your breath.

    In the meantime they are ploughing on investing 100 billion and certain to go up, on a rail llink that like the rest of the network, they haven’t hit a clue what the demand is going to be and that was dodgy even before COVID.

    Pure political vanity.

    1. Mike Wilson
      September 24, 2020

      Our political insanity.

  15. Bryan Harris
    September 23, 2020

    The whole subject of rail tickets needs a vast shakeup

    There are online deals and tickets not available to buy at stations… which is totally unfair given how complicated some schemes are.

    It’s a gross insult to commuters, and everyone else, to keep raising the price of rail travel… It took the government long enough to learn the lesson that lower tax rates can equal more tax income… When are we going to apply that idea to rail travel?

    Reduce rail fares – increase the number of people using trains, should equal more rail income — It should certainly be worth a try, as the old policy of Extortionate fares has surely failed miserably

  16. Anonymous
    September 23, 2020

    Certificate Of Vaccine ID 2019

    the proper name is SarsCov2

  17. Anonymous
    September 23, 2020

    Did you listen to Julia hartley Brewer this morning when she told Dominica Rabb how many people died of covid this year with no underlying health issues. It was 307 yes 307 he was speechless for about 5 seconds and then just carried on spouting the narrative.

    1. Original Chris
      September 24, 2020

      Raab is unimpressive, in my view, and seems to be supporting the globalists’ agenda. His Brexiteer credentials are not convincing.

  18. No Longer Anonymous
    September 23, 2020

    Do we have a scientific risk analyses of people being killed in car accidents because they have been warned away from rail transport (the safest next to airlines) vs the risk of dying of CV19 ?

    1. Original Chris
      September 24, 2020

      I think they will be at increasing risk on the motorways as the government has stated that it is pursuing the Smart Motorway programme, despite significant safety issues and huge public opposition, and 7 more motorways are going to be converted.

      1. czerwonadupa
        September 24, 2020

        And lowering the speed limit on some to 60mph to save the planet apparently.

  19. Norris
    September 23, 2020

    Just as well you’re talking about rail because no point in talking about sea ferry tickets. Have it in my mind that the Channel ports will be closed in a few weeks- they the French and EU have had enough of perfidious albion recalcitrance and are not going to wait until December. Thinking is in Brussels that a pause is on the cards- with talks to be resumed in 2021, 2022 or 2033

  20. Lindsay McDougall
    September 24, 2020

    Before we can decide these issues, we need to know what the maximum safe occupancy rates are for train, tube and bus. I reckon that to deliver one metre minimum spacing the maximum occupancy rate is about 30%.

    The biggest problem that we have is lack of transparency by Government about the sources of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. When a person shows symptoms of the virus, then he/she was infected between 2 and 14 days earlier (the incubation period). I take it that for each new COVID-19 case, the places attended between 2 and 14 days earlier are rigorously recorded. If, why not?

    Sorry, Sir John, but if the Government wants our sympathy, confidence and compliance, it needs to put transmission data in the public domain.

    I still harbour the suspicion that a fair proportion of transmission occurs at religious gatherings. I will continue to do so unless HM Government publishes data to refute the hypothesis.

  21. Mark B
    September 24, 2020

    Good morning

    Typical Public Sector blurb. Says a lot without meaning or any real commitment to a stated outcome.

    You cannot be proactive and considering at the same time.

  22. 37/6
    September 24, 2020

    With London and other cities ruined as cultural, entertainment and commercial hubs the privatised model for railways is dead. Privatisation cannot cope with low and intermittent passenger levels, nor unpredictable peaks. There are also the gargantuan costs recently incurred in modernising the railways on the basis of optimism and continual passenger growth and no reforms can make those go away. They must be paid even if the railways are wound up altogether.

    The socialist model is the only way we can go now, with huge government subsidy, even for a much reduced railway.

    WFM and pandemic policies were never explained fully, that these would come at terrible economic and political cost. It’s now time that your party started telling people the truth. With your government’s huge majority and it being virtually illegal to blame China the Tory party is going to bear the full brunt for this reckoning with no place to hide.

    1. 37/6
      September 24, 2020

      WFH and not WFM.


    2. Original Chris
      September 24, 2020

      The terrible economic cost was not factored in to the government’s own pandemic planning exercise/document, according to evidence given to the Select Committee looking into this. The Chair of the Committee was “gobsmacked” at the admission of this, by a senior civil servant. The person responsible for running the pandemic planning and producing the report should be held accountable. An Alan Sugar, “You’re fired” seems an appropriate response.

  23. John BG
    September 25, 2020

    They were looking at flexible season tickets back in 2017 and 2019 what have they being doing since then it was an issue precovid19

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