Guest blog: Cities can lead the way in supporting smart commuting - By Lianna Etkind, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport

Flexible working has come a long way since it was seen as the ‘mummy shift’. While there’s still a long way to go until every employer makes flexible hiring the norm, and until an end to unreasonable refusals of flexible working, more and more employers are recognising its benefits.

Unfortunately, the transport sector has largely failed to keep up with this enormous shift in working practices. While around 60 per cent of us now work part-time or flexibly, rail fares are still stuck in an archaic structure of nine to five, Monday to Friday, meaning commuters around the country are being penalised. We are faced with a choice between buying a season ticket which will only be used three or four days a week, or buying full price peak-time fares for the days we travel. Those who work part-time, or those who work from home one or two days a week, end up paying well over the odds for commuting. For many part-time workers, these extra costs fall on top of a reduced wage and the high costs of childcare. It’s no surprise that some people give up their city job for a local job, even if it doesn’t offer the same salary or opportunities for progression, and others give up work altogether.

A fairly-priced flexible season ticket
The overarching goal here has to be for the Government to introduce a fairly priced season ticket for part-time workers: and the Fair Fares Now campaign is pushing for just that. The benefits would be enormous: not only would flexible workers themselves be freed of an unfair financial burden, but if it were easier for people to afford to work from home or part-time, commuters would benefit from less rail overcrowding. It’s good news that new rail franchises encourage a product designed for flexible commuting, but until there’s a commitment to a fairly priced flexible season ticket, part-time commuters will continue to pay more for every journey than the full-time commuter sitting next to them on the same train.

Going local
Despite the frustratingly slow progress on a national level towards a better deal for part-time commuters, local authorities – especially in those six regions with a Metro Mayor - can play a part in making commuting fairer. Cardiff Bus has already introduced a carnet with a ten per cent discount aimed at flexible working; and those who use Transport for London’s Oyster Card are not penalised for commuting part-time. Local authorities and Mayors can use new powers in the Bus Services Act, as well as smart ticketing, to make commuting fair and affordable for all.

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