The Rise of Hybrid Working and the Decline of Rail Season Tickets in Great Britain

The Rise of Hybrid Working and the Decline of Rail Season Tickets in Great Britain

The Decline of Rail Season Tickets in Great Britain

The use of rail season tickets in Great Britain has reached its lowest point on record, driven by a significant increase in working from home since the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Office for Rail and Road (ORR), the number of rail journeys made using season tickets fell to 13% in the year to March 2023, down from 15% the previous year. This marks the lowest figure since records began in 1986-87.

The decline in season ticket use can be attributed to the rise of hybrid working models, which allow employees to split their time between home and the office. While some companies require employees to spend most of their time in the office, many others have embraced hybrid working, recognizing its benefits for employee well-being and productivity. A recent study found that three-quarters of those working flexibly reported feeling less burned out compared to when they were in the office full-time.

Despite the decline in season ticket use, the overall number of rail journeys in Britain increased by 16% in the year to March 2023, reaching 1.6 billion journeys. Passengers travelled a total of 60 billion kilometres, up by 13% year-on-year. In the three months to March, passengers made 405 million journeys, a 13% increase compared to the same quarter last year.

Total passenger revenue rose to £10.3 billion, a 13% increase from £9.1 billion in the previous year, when adjusted for inflation. In response to the rise in hybrid working, the rail industry introduced flexible season tickets, allowing travel on any eight days within a 28-day period. However, analysis by MoneySavingExpert found that part-time season tickets only offered savings for those travelling two days a week, with cheaper options often available.

Govia Thameslink Railway was the largest operator by passenger journeys in the year to March. The Elizabeth line recorded the second-highest number of journeys and the greatest year-on-year increase, up by 54%. This surge is attributed to the increase in services following the opening of the central section of the line in May 2022, with a full service commencing in May 2023.

The notable year-on-year increase in the number of journeys for several operators was also influenced by reduced timetables in the previous year. This includes ScotRail, Avanti West Coast, and TransPennine Express, all of which operated reduced timetables at some point between April 2022 and March 2023.