TRANSPORT for the North and Northern have launched new smart travel season tickets in a bid to take the next step in its rail travel vision.

The North’s first ‘flexi’ season rail tickets launched on select Leeds to Harrogate services this week thanks to Transport for the North (TfN) in smart travel. TfN revealed it expects the Department for Transport to support a further region-wide rollout of the ‘London-style’ flexible, contactless ticketing.

The new season tickets are loaded to smartcards and give passengers 10 unlimited travel days for the price of nine and valid for 6 months.

Jeremy Acklam, TfN’s Director of Integrated and Smart Travel, said the launch was a "timely milestone" for the North of England, describing it as "better value and more convenient".

The director said: “The launch of flexi seasons is a major and timely milestone in our mission to transform travel across the North of England.

“Now more than ever, due to the impact of coronavirus on our travel habits, passengers need safer, better value and more convenient ways to pay for public transport. Flexi seasons will provide this for thousands of passengers.”

While Mark Powles, Customer and Commercial Director at Northern, said: “Our customers’ working lives have changed significantly in the past few months and the flexible season tickets will provide a way for rail travel with Northern to reflect those changes.

“With Transport for the North’s support, the new tickets will allow our customers to load 10 day-passes between two stations onto a smart card which can then be used at any time in a six-month period. So, unlike a normal season ticket, customers now only have to pay for the days they travel.

“Initially, we are trialling the new flexi-season ticket for journeys between Harrogate and Leeds, but plan to roll the scheme out to other parts of the Northern network in the coming months.”

The scheme is part of TfN's £150 million Integrated and Smart Travel programme (IST), with the next stage proposing to deliver more contactless payment technology on the North’s train and tram platforms.

TfN is seeking approval from the Department for Transport to spend more funds from the ringfenced budget so it can rapidly extend the flexis seasons initiative across the whole of the North.

So far, the subnational transport body has installed ‘tap-in-tap-out’ systems on platforms at 90 stations as well as moving the majority of season ticket-holders from paper to smart cards.

It is expected to benefit travellers at over 300-additional stations.

Jeremy Acklam, added: “To realise the benefits of flexi seasons and contactless travel we are now calling on the Department for Transport to green light the next stage so we can move at pace to roll the technology out more widely across the region’s entire rail network. We are in a position to start work tomorrow on the delivery of this scheme which would improve the way we use public transport for the millions of people living and working across our region.

“To tackle some of the biggest challenges of our day including cutting carbon emissions and the levelling up of the North’s economy we need to invest in ambitious, forward looking projects now. Our message to the Prime Minister and the Government is clear, Transport for the North is ready to make flexible, contactless ticketing a reality, let’s get moving.”

A supporting strategic outline for contactless travel on rail was recently submitted to the DfT for their consideration, and the wider rollout of flexis was included as a priority scheme in TfN’s proposed Economic Recovery Plan to rebuild and transform the North post-Covid-19.

Commenting on the launch on the launch of flexi tickets in the North, David Sidebottom of Transport Focus said: “We know that rail passengers want to get seats on more punctual, reliable and value for money services. The launch of the flexi season ticket is a big step in delivering better value for money for rail commuters in the north of England. Nearly half of those we asked in our latest research do not expect to immediately go back to their regular level of daily commuting.”