Shapps to grill on ‘pitiful’ flexible subscription discounts
Grant Shapps will be toasted on “pitiful” discounts offered to commuters using new flexible train passes during an appearance before MPs.
Transport Secretary is about to face a barrage of questions over the flagship initiative that follows Telegraph An analysis showing that the discount can be as low as 3.7 pc compared to buying a normal ticket during peak hours.
Mr Shapps faces the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday to discuss the government’s launch of “Great British Railways” – a public sector body that will bring together tracks and trains for the first time in three decades.
Sources said a line of questions will focus on the percentage of reduction available on the ministers’ highly touted flexible subscriptions, which are intended to bring remote workers back to the office after Covid.
Mr Shapps has been quiet about the potential savings, but this newspaper’s analysis suggests that on some routes, travelers could save as little as 3.7%.
This compares to discounts on current standard monthly and annual subscriptions which range between 20 and 40pc.
Savings vary by route, according to the analysis, with some trips on track for more than 15% off. The system will work by purchasing eight travel days that can be used over a 28-day period – enough to get to the office two days a week.
Mr Shapps will appear before the Select Transport Committee alongside Sir Peter Hendy, one of Boris Johnson’s transport advisers and Chairman of Network Rail, and Keith Williams, who carried out a review of the railways following the the revision of schedules failed in May 2018.
The long-awaited rollout of flexible subscriptions was announced last week as the launch of Great British Railways stoked fears of the return of British Rail and stealth nationalization.
Toby Perkins, the MP for Chesterfield, whose voters appear to only be able to claim a 6% reduction on a two- and three-day-a-week ticket, said:
“Regardless of the fairness aspect of that, 6pc as a discount is pretty meager for any type of subscription. So, to encourage people to use public transport, that’s a pretty pitiful incentive. If it turned out that some regions were receiving less than others, I would be very worried.
Sir David Amess, is the Conservative MP for Southend-on-Sea. Commuters in his constituency traveling from Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street will get a 12% discount for two days a week, but only 6.7% for three days, according to the published pound savings analysis by the Ministry of Transport.
He said: “The rebate has to be fair across the board and it has to be the same for everyone. I look forward to knowing the amount of the rebate because it is the same for all voters, regardless of where they live.
“Rest assured that if my constituents lose, I will raise the issue about transportation and business.”
Separately, Mr Shapps announced more than £ 400million investment in rail links across the north. More than three-quarters of the money will be used to provide much-needed upgrades to trans-Pennine services, which have suffered widespread disruption in recent years.