No extension for railcard holders after lockdown, but retired staff get extra time to use free tickets

Simon Calder
·2-min read
Card game: Railcards give a one-third discount off train fares (Simon Calder)
Card game: Railcards give a one-third discount off train fares (Simon Calder)

After railcard holders were told they will get no credit for the months in which they could not use trains, it has emerged that retired rail staff have been given extra time to use free travel perks.

Railcards normally grant one-third off most train journeys, but between late March and July holders were told not to travel by rail unless they were essential workers.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which coordinates the discount schemes, had hoped to to extend the validity of existing railcards or provide financial recompense. But last week the Department for Transport (DfT) rejected the proposals, saying it wanted to “ensure we are fair to taxpayers”.

Yet retired rail staff who receive a certain number of free journeys each year have been given three months longer in which to claim their entitlement.

Many former employees receive an annual allowance of tickets that typically allow unlimited travel anywhere on the rail network within a 48-hour spell.

The British Transport Pensioners’ Federation has told them: “In the spring of 2020 there was a period of time during which travel by train was for essential journeys only.

“A decision has been made that the Staff Travel Card… which is printed with an end of validity date of 30 June 2021 will be extended to 30 September 2021.

“This will give holders an additional three months in which to use the allocation of date boxes for free travel on National Rail services only.”

The change is being made automatically, with ticket inspection staff told of the change.

The revelation is likely to anger many railcard holders who have seen the value of their original investment eroded without compensation.

A spokesperson for the RDG, which administers the rail staff travel schemes, said: “People who worked in rail at the point of privatisation have employee benefits which are safeguarded under law, including a number of free journeys and discounted travel.

"Staff travel cards which offer discounts have not been extended as, like railcards, this would come at a significant cost at a time when the focus must be on maintaining rail services to support the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

"Those who have a number of free journeys are not getting more, but are being given additional time to take their allocation which has no further cost.”

A rail industry insider told The Independent: “Railcards are not comparable. Passengers can save the cost of the card on one journey.

A DfT spokesperson said: “Passengers deserve punctual and reliable journeys at a fair price.

“We are investing billions into modernising the network and working with industry to try to provide commuters with more flexibility and better value.”

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