Travellers call for end of rail discount card age limits – The Independent

Train travellers have called for a railcard for all ages – but a leading rail expert has said it should not be necessary.

In a Twitter poll with over 1,000 responses, passengers voted by a clear majority for a new “National Railcard” that would deliver discounts for millions of travellers in the 31-59 age range.

Of the self-selecting sample of 1,091 respondents, 57 per cent called for the introduction to the UK of a card that anyone can buy.

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Tracey Franklin commented: “I often travel to London either as a couple or group of three when our student son is at home. I am the only one who has to pay full fare as there are no railcards for my age group.

“I like the idea of a railcard for those who want to buy one.”

Such railcards are already sold in Germany and Switzerland. The Swiss Half Fare Card costs 185 Swiss francs (£153) for a year. It is so commonly held that the default setting for online and machine tickets assume the 50 per cent discount.

In Germany, rail passengers can choose from BahnCards offering 25 per cent or half price. The 25 per cent card in second class costs €62 (£56) for a year, while the 50 per cent card allowing first-class travel is €515 (£465).

Travellers can also buy a 100 per cent card, allowing free travel all year and costing €4,395 (£3,965) in second class.

But Mark Smith, the founder of the Seat61.com international rail website, called the concept of a national railcard “an old chestnut”.

“A railcard for anyone defeats the whole purpose of a railcard: to lower prices for specific groups with higher elasticity of demand such as the young or old,” he said.

“If you give a railcard to everyone you may as well just halve prices without the added unnecessary complexity of ‘cards’. 

“Indeed, as non-users wouldn’t have a card and would face the full price, a national railcard would lose money from existing passengers paying less (which is why we’d all like one, of course!) but do nothing to attract new users.

“Switzerland is a good example. They appear to have thought of sensible prices, doubled them, then given almost everyone in Switzerland a Half Fare Card to halve them again.

“But new customers or visitors to Switzerland face the high undiscounted prices so are put off using rail. It would be far preferable just to have lower prices for everyone.”

More than one in three respondents – 37 per cent – voted for the abolition of railcards and fare cuts across the board.

In the survey, only seven per cent of respondents said that the railcard system in the UK should stay the same.

Existing age-specific cards for travellers aged 16-25, 26-30 and 60-plus cost £30 and give a 34 per cent discount.

A Network Railcard gives some discounts in southeast England regardless of age.

Some frequent rail travellers buy an annual season ticket between Ryde St John’s Road and Ryde Esplanade on the Isle of Wight, costing £184.

It is the cheapest annual season ticket in southeast England and comes with an Annual Gold Card, which confers a range of benefits that go beyond the Network Card area – as far as Shrewsbury and Stafford. It is not necessary to visit the island.

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