By Daniel Hunter
The government will invest in a trial of flexible ticketing as part of its drive to give commuters a better deal on the railways, Rail Minister Norman Baker has announced.
The Department for Transport will run a competition next year to select a train operator to run a pilot on a busy commuter route into London so it can assess the benefits.
Flexible ticketing will give passengers a better deal by reducing the money they spend on fares and will spread demand across the network by encouraging them to take less busy services.
The DfT will finalise the exact details of how the trial will run with the successful bidder, but this could include discounted tickets for those travelling in the slightly quieter periods at either end of the rush hour called the "shoulder peak", and the introduction of flexible season tickets to benefit those who work part-time.
"The coalition government is investing record amounts into transforming our railways and it is vital we work smart by harnessing technology and adopting a more flexible approach to ticketing," Rail Minister Norman Baker said.
"Part-time workers and those who sometimes work from home have long complained they have to pay the full price for season tickets even though they do not get the full benefit. Under this pilot we will look at how we can give them a better deal and also reward those commuters who avoid the busiest rush hour services.
"Our vision is for a ticketing system that gives passengers what they need, when they need it, but which over time costs less not more. This will allow us to focus our resources on improving train services and ending the era of above inflation fare rises."
The department has committed £45 million to rolling out smart ticketing across the south east as part of the south east flexible ticketing programme. Once this is underway the DfT will start discussions with a London commuter operator to identify a suitable route and products for the trial, subject to the agreement of satisfactory commercial terms and business case.
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