Free bacon rolls and hot drinks are being offered to Britain’s train commuters in a new rewards scheme to increase passenger numbers as rail operators try to boost the Government’s drive to get workers back into the office.
Complimentary breakfast food and hot drinks from Greggs are among the perks on the website for people who travel to work by train – with other benefits including free audiobooks and access to a mindfulness app.
Passengers – who can also get free coffees from London-based cafe chain Pure – are required to sign up to nationalrail.co.uk/commuter and select the rewards they want, industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said.
Bosses said they wanted to help passengers ‘make the most of their ‘me-time’ when they commute’ – and that app users must enter details of their commute but are not required to provide evidence of their travel history.
The industry is battling to restore commuting levels closer to normal again after a collapse in demand which saw the Government put £15billion into railways during the pandemic, effectively taking them into public ownership.
It comes as the RDG revealed demand for peak time trains has increased by 5 per cent since the guidance for people in England to work from home was lifted last Wednesday having been in place since December 13.
But provisional Department for Transport figures showed overall passenger numbers on Monday were still only at 53 per cent of pre-pandemic levels as millions of Britons continue to work from home.
Complimentary breakfast food and hot drinks from Greggs are among the perks in a new rewards scheme for rail commuters
Underground commuters board a train at Finchley Road station in North West London at about 7.30am yesterday morning
Commuters travel on a Jubilee line train on the London Underground during the morning rush hour at 7.30am yesterday
A graph from Transport for London shows how Tube usage fell off in December 2021 but is now recovering again this month
This Transport for London graph shows how Underground usage has changed over the last two years, split by type of station
Transport for London said that yesterday morning up to 10am, there were around 1.17million entry and exits on the Underground – up 10 per cent on the previous Wednesday and 51 per cent of normal pre-pandemic levels.
On London buses, again up to 10am yesterday morning, TfL told MailOnline that there were around 1.2million boarding taps – up 1 per cent compared to last Wednesday and 70 per cent of normal.
At Tube stations with links to the City of London, such as Mansion House, Aldgate, Canary Wharf and Holborn, there were 115,000 entries and exits yesterday morning, which represents just 36 per cent of normal demand.
Specifically at Shopping and West End stations, such as Stratford, Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus, there were around 113,800 entries and exits yesterday morning, which represents 49 per cent of normal demand.
RDG chief executive Jacqueline Starr said today: ‘Taking the train is more than just a journey, it benefits the environment, economy and local businesses.
‘To encourage and support commuters as they return, the rail industry has launched a new commuter rewards website offering free hot drinks, mindfulness, course upgrades, music streaming, audiobooks and more to help enhance customers’ on-train and at-destination experiences.’
Covid restrictions introduced under Plan B are axed in England
Covid restrictions introduced under Plan B have been axed in England – making it the freest country in Europe.
Under the move, there will be no more vaccine passports and wearing face masks in crowded places such as shops will no longer be legally mandated.
However, London mayor Sadiq Khan said face coverings will remain compulsory on the Tube and buses – although police will no longer be able to enforce the rule or impose fines. And some supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have said they will continue to ask shoppers to wear a mask ‘if they are able to’.
Last week, Boris Johnson scrapped guidance that urged the public to work from home where possible. All remaining legal measures in England – including self-isolation for those with the virus – are set to be scrapped in March. The Government has promised to set out a long-term strategy for ‘living with Covid’ by spring. But, some restrictions will remain in place in Scotland and Wales.
The new freedoms have been welcomed after a traumatic two years of intermittent draconian curbs on day-to-day life. Since the first case was detected in England on January 31, 2020, there have been three full national lockdowns with catastrophic economic and social consequences.
The latest round of restrictions – so-called Plan B – were introduced in December to combat the rise of the Omicron variant, but experts say they are no longer needed because it is much less severe than previous strains. Ministers are confident the UK’s historic vaccine rollout – the fastest in Europe – means there will never be another lockdown and life can return to normal.
While all legal curbs are being banished in England, some venues such as pubs can still voluntarily choose to require proof of vaccination. People will still be urged to wear masks in crowded spaces as well as in GP surgeries, hospitals and pharmacies.
It is still a legal requirement for those with Covid-19 to self-isolate for ten days, although they can be freed after five days if they present two negative lateral flow tests.
The Government has said it will set out detailed plans on scrapping self-isolation entirely within weeks, and said this will be replaced with ‘advice and guidance urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others’. Free lateral flow tests are also set to be scrapped by the summer.
Pure boss Spencer Craig said: ‘Like most businesses that rely on the commuter market, we saw our customer base drop by over 50 pe cent due to the work-from-home restrictions coming in to force, and rail commuters no longer coming into the city.
‘We’re delighted to be working with the rail industry on their commuter rewards platform and look forward to welcoming customers back and providing them with delicious, nutritious meals and drinks on the go.’
Only 1,000 free Greggs breakfast rolls will be available through the scheme, but other offers will be introduced in the coming weeks.
Other incentives to support commuters returning to the office include the introduction of flexible season tickets, and an easing of the rules for amending tickets.
As it announced the new rewards scheme, the RDG said a poll found 48 per cent of those working from home had been feeling the effects of ‘work from home fatigue’, with this resulting in less motivation (33 per cent), finding it harder to focus (23 per cent) and poorer sleep (25 per cent).
It said almost half (48 per cent) of those that were working from home whilst the work from home restrictions were in place have said that they hope to return to their place of work two to three times a week now the restrictions have been lifted.
An RDG spokesman said: ‘Train companies will be monitoring timetables and in the coming weeks, stepping up the number of trains they run in a way that reflects demand to help passengers travel with confidence.’
The survey also found commuters said learning a new skill (34 per cent), escaping with a good book (27 per cent) and having time to meditate (27 per cent) would be beneficial to heir self-improvement.
Last June the Flexi Season ticket was introduced to provide commuters with a minimum of 20 per cent discount on an equivalent Monthly Season ticket, with the new scheme targeted at those travelling during peak times two to three times a week.
Rail users can also currently amend a booked journey for free up until 6pm the day before should their travel plans change with the ‘Book with Confidence’ initiative.
It comes after it emerged civil servants are defying orders to ‘lead the way’ and return to the office this week as the Government attempts to crackdown on working from home.
Thousands of workers are failing to return to their desks in Whitehall and other buildings across the UK, despite Cabinet Office enforcer Steve Barclay telling top officials that Government offices should see ‘maximum use’ from this week.
Whilst ministerial departments saw a slight rise in attendance from last week, many welcomed as few as 10 per cent of staff back to their desks on Monday morning, a Daily Mail audit found.
At Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ cavernous 6,500-capacity building in Longbenton, North Tyneside, reporters counted just 227 people arriving for work between 7.30 and 11am – 3 per cent.
On Friday, Mr Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, revealed that civil servants would now be expected to return to the office full-time following the easing of Plan B restrictions as the country ‘learns to live with Covid’.
Ministers hope private firms will follow the lead back to the office with the mass return of employees boosting ailing city centres which have been damaged by the work-from-home culture.
However the move has been met with consternation by trade unions, with Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA civil service union, branding the plans a ‘distraction’ from ‘partygate’ scandals engulfing Downing Street.