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How would you reform the Railcard system?

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py_megapixel

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I find the current Railcard system to be a bit stupid - despite a large array of Railcards being available, someone who frequently travels on their own but who is not disabled, senior, a veteran or a young person cannot make use of one. Apart from in the South East of England, that is, where it has been arbitrarily decided that a relic from the NSE days should remain and any adult should be able to buy a Railcard, as long as they abide by some rather bizarre restrictions when using it.
It looks like it has begun as an effort to get discounts on tickets to certain people who may need them, but has gradually expanded to become broader and broader.

So in my opinion, Railcard needs to decide what it actually is. Either:
  • It's a scheme allowing certain groups of people to access discounted rail fares, in which case:
    • the Two Together and Family railcards should be scrapped and replaced with a comprehensive offering of group tickets
    • the Network Railcard should be scrapped altogether
    • the 16-25 and 26-30 railcards should be merged together as one Young Person's Railcard
  • It's a general discount scheme for frequent travellers, in which case, the entire offering of railcards should be replaced with an individual one (priced at a fixed rate, possibly with reduced rates for disabled/veteran/senior people) and a group one (priced based on the number of people in the group) and give up on eligibility checking at all
 
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Snow1964

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I am not sure what fraction of tickets are sold with a railcard, but I agree it has got too complicated

All the railcards do is discourage new users, and casual users by making the headline fares seem high.

It really comes down to is aim to encourage a small percentage of the population to make extra discounted journeys, or to encourage people back to rail who don’t have a card (or whose railcard has lapsed)

As an example is a 2 for 1 railcard better than printing a 2 for 1 voucher in a newspaper, the latter will encourage more new people to trains, but repeat business will depend on their journey experience
 

Mikey C

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The Network Railcard isn't am especially generous deal really if you're travelling on your own, unless you can do some long runs (say Weymouth), especially with the Monday to Friday restrictions (min £13 and after 10am)

And it's bizarre that the boundary has never been changed to reflect that NSE has long gone, it's daft that Swindon is outside the area but Worcester is allowed, similarly you can go to Kings Lynn but not Ipswich
 

Ianno87

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The Network Railcard isn't am especially generous deal really if you're travelling on your own, unless you can do some long runs (say Weymouth), especially with the Monday to Friday restrictions (min £13 and after 10am)

Yes, unlike other Railcards, it doesn't have the "get most of the money back from the first trip" benefit that other Railcards do.

And it's bizarre that the boundary has never been changed to reflect that NSE has long gone, it's daft that Swindon is outside the area but Worcester is allowed, similarly you can go to Kings Lynn but not Ipswich

Personally, I'd extend the Network Card area to be consistent with the Annual Gold Card.
 

jonnyfan

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I would have a National Railcard, which anyone can have, perhaps at £50 per year, but then have it cheaper to purchase for certain groups (18-30s, over 60s, Students) at £30 per year, but all have the same benefits/restrictions.
Scrap the Network Railcard.
Make the Annual Gold Card national.
Still have the 16-17 saver, disabled, family & friends and forces & veteran railcards as separate offerings.
Streamlines things down a bit.
 

Alex27

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I'd personally just consolidate into one or two railcards, as the vast majority of people can get railcards. I'd have something like:

- off peak railcard - off peak trains only, plusbus after 0930 £30 a year as current
- anytime railcard - any trains, but charge more for it, something like £300 a year (I've no idea what you would actually retail it at, but you get the idea)

Both railcards would be available to anyone and would have their equivalent 3 year variants. I would probably keep the 16-17 saver as its a bit different to the other railcards.

The 'off peak railcard' is basically just doing what most of the existing railcards do, the 'anytime railcard' is just an idea that may not work, but you never know :lol:
 

JonathanH

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Scrap the Network Railcard.
...is the right answer. It completely complicates fare setting in the South East and gets abused to allow people to make I expect it will go with the extension of Contactless to a wider area.

I would have a National Railcard, which anyone can have, perhaps at £50 per year, but then have it cheaper to purchase for certain groups (18-30s, over 60s, Students) at £30 per year, but all have the same benefits/restrictions.
A National Railcard would have an even worse effect on pricing fares and the ability to focus offers on times when there is actually spare capacity.

The railway needs to be able to target cheaper fares on times when there are fewer people travelling. Plenty of trains fill at off-peak times without having to 'throw away' potential revenue.

All the railcards do is discourage new users, and casual users by making the headline fares seem high.
They distort fare setting but I think it is reasonable to offer them to certain groups as happens presently. There are some things that it is completely inexplicable not to have happened - the weekday minimum fare for the Network Railcard should be £25 as a precursor to withdrawal, the age threshold for the Senior Railcard should be State Pension Age in line with bus passes etc, the London & South East morning peak restrictions on the Senior and Family Railcards should be extended nationwide.

the 16-25 and 26-30 railcards should be merged together as one Young Person's Railcard
With or without the July / August restriction (which has a reasonable justification)

someone who frequently travels on their own but who is not disabled, senior, a veteran or a young person cannot make use of one
I don't understand why people think that is a bad thing. They can probably afford to do so more than people in the other groups. I am not sure a 'relative affluence' railcard would be easily marketable.
 
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py_megapixel

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Removal of the network railcard is definitely something I'd support. Why is the south east more important than anywhere else for this purpose?

I don't understand why people think that is a bad thing. They can probably afford to do so more than people in the other groups. I am not sure a 'relative affluence' railcard would be easily marketable.
But then what's the point of Two Together and Family & Friends? Why not just offer general discounts for group travel?

I particularly detest the Family & Friends railcard, as it seems to suggest that people with children are somehow more deserving of reasonably priced train travel.
 

Bletchleyite

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Removal of the network railcard is definitely something I'd support. Why is the south east more important than anywhere else for this purpose?


But then what's the point of Two Together and Family & Friends?l Why not just offer general discounts for group travel>

Traditionally the NSE area overpriced off peak fares by about a third, but that's evened out somewhat now.

I agree with the latter, I'm going to post a fuller answer soon.
 

SteveM70

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Classic example of scope creep. Something that started simple has become hideously complicated
 

py_megapixel

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I would have a National Railcard, which anyone can have, perhaps at £50 per year, but then have it cheaper to purchase for certain groups (18-30s, over 60s, Students) at £30 per year, but all have the same benefits/restrictions.
Scrap the Network Railcard.
Make the Annual Gold Card national.
Still have the 16-17 saver, disabled, family & friends and forces & veteran railcards as separate offerings.
Streamlines things down a bit.
16-17 Saver, I can understand, as it serves a different purpose and the discount is different. But why not just offer disabled and veterans discounts on the main National Railcard?
 

Bletchleyite

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16-17 Saver, I can understand, as it serves a different purpose and the discount is different. But why not just offer disabled and veterans discounts on the main National Railcard?

I'd bin the 16-17 Saver and just extend child fares to the 18th birthday. Society is progressively standardising everything involving "adulting" on 18, so why not this?
 

JonathanH

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particularly detest the Family & Friends railcard, as it seems to suggest that people with children are somehow more deserving of reasonably priced train travel.
You are missing the point though - it isn't about the adults, it is about making the fare for a family group competitive with using other transport types - it could perhaps be better done by just making accompanied children free though.
 

Bletchleyite

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You are missing the point though - it isn't about the adults, it is about making the fare for a family group competitive with using other transport types - it could perhaps be better done by just making accompanied children free though.

Yes, true, that's essentially equivalent to the car then (give or take the second adult).

For 2 adults together there's the, er, Two Together, for 3+ GroupSave.
 

yorksrob

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...is the right answer. It completely complicates fare setting in the South East and gets abused to allow people to make I expect it will go with the extension of Contactless to a wider area.


A National Railcard would have an even worse effect on pricing fares and the ability to focus offers on times when there is actually spare capacity.

The railway needs to be able to target cheaper fares on times when there are fewer people travelling. Plenty of trains fill at off-peak times without having to 'throw away' potential revenue.


They distort fare setting but I think it is reasonable to offer them to certain groups as happens presently. There are some things that it is completely inexplicable not to have happened - the weekday minimum fare for the Network Railcard should be £25 as a precursor to withdrawal, the age threshold for the Senior Railcard should be State Pension Age in line with bus passes etc, the London & South East morning peak restrictions on the Senior and Family Railcards should be extended nationwide.


With or without the July / August restriction (which has a reasonable justification)


I don't understand why people think that is a bad thing. They can probably afford to do so more than people in the other groups. I am not sure a 'relative affluence' railcard would be easily marketable.

No, the idea of railards is to present semi-regular users with a sunk cost which they will attempt to make back through additional travel, which is the case across all age groups.

This is true for the Network railcard which you appear to support, so you have no justification for being against it on a national level.
 

py_megapixel

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You are missing the point though - it isn't about the adults, it is about making the fare for a family group competitive with using other transport types - it could perhaps be better done by just making accompanied children free though.
What needs to be rectified IMO is the fact that often an adult and a child on a F&F card works out cheaper than the comparable undiscounted adult (+ no child) fare

I would have no problem if an adult was allowed to travel alone on a F&F railcard if they bought both an adult and child ticket, but I believe the child is required to actually be physically present (rather than just accounted for with a ticket)

For 2 adults together there's the, er, Two Together,
For two named adults. If person A travels with both B and C enough to justify a railcard in total, but not enough with either separately, then they're stuck.
I would be in favour of amending the Two Together railcard to have one named holder, valid for that named holder travelling with any other adult.

for 3+ GroupSave.
GroupSave in its current state is not very good because of the arbitrary smattering of TOCs that it's invalid on for some reason. It's useless if you're in the East Midlands, Wales, or anywhere north of about Stoke-on-Trent.

Here's hoping GBR will fix that.
 

Bletchleyite

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So I'd do the following.

Standardise what the Railcards offer in terms of discount. I would suggest 34% after 0930 M-F (all day weekend and public holiday) as a reasonable compromise. Perhaps before 0930 could be allowed in July/August as per the present 16-25. Discount offered on all point to point fares and Rovers/Rangers including 1st.

Bin the 16-17 Saver and extend child fares to 18th birthday.

GroupSave to offer the same discount as above for groups of 3+ (no upper limit), including the same off child fares (or consider up to say 3 or 4 children free when travelling accompanied by an adult). This near enough replaces the Family and Friends.

Offer the following "open" Railcards:
- National Railcard - approx £120 pa or £10/month by direct debit. Available to anyone.
- Anytime National Railcard - much higher fee, perhaps even £360 per year (or £30 per month) or even more, no time restriction on this one
- Either bin the Network Railcard or consider offering one for each region at the £30ish rate

All of these would allow discount for the holder and any one other adult travelling with them. (GroupSave would kick in for 2+ others off peak)

I think these do have value as like purchasing a car you have "sunk costs" so are encouraged to travel more.

And the following "demographic" ones, all at £30ish and with the standard time restriction, only offering discount for the holder unless stated
- 18-30 (no point having the two separate)
- Disabled (also offers discount for a companion)
- Senior (60+?)
- Maybe the Two Together
- Plus the other odd ones like Forces
 

yorksrob

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Groupsave, like the network railcard is a very good product.

Alas, if you live up North, you get sod all.
 

Bletchleyite

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For two named adults. If person A travels with both B and C enough to justify a railcard in total, but not enough with either separately, then they're stuck.
I would be in favour of amending the Two Together railcard to have one named holder, valid for that named holder travelling with any other adult.

Yes, that'd help.

GroupSave in its current state is not very good because of the arbitrary smattering of TOCs that it's invalid on for some reason. It's useless if you're in the East Midlands, Wales, or anywhere north of about Stoke-on-Trent.

Here's hoping GBR will fix that.

Indeed. Group travel is a mess. A flat 34% discount after 0930 on any fare in any class for a group of 3 or more people (adults and kids)* is a proper simplification.

* 3 to 9 is a silly stipulation, as you can't actually restrict to 9, you just buy two or more groups.
 

py_megapixel

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Another thought. I think if we're going to have railcards which require a specific named individual to be travelling, there needs to be an easy way to get out of that restriction - probably by allowing a discounted ticket to be excessesed to a full price one.

Imagine that A and B have a two together railcard, buy a ticket, and then B is taken ill and cannot make the journey, If A still needs to travel, under the current rules they're out of pocket for at least the refund administration fee, and possibly a lot more if the ticket they originally bought is unavailable for purchase. That's the kind of inflexibility a car avoids.
 

Bletchleyite

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Another thought. I think if we're going to have railcards which require a specific named individual to be travelling, there needs to be an easy way to get out of that restriction - probably by allowing a discounted ticket to be excessesed to a full price one.

Imagine that A and B have a two together railcard, buy a ticket, and then B is taken ill and cannot make the journey, If A still needs to travel, under the current rules they're out of pocket for at least the refund administration fee, and possibly a lot more if the ticket they originally bought is unavailable for purchase. That's the kind of inflexibility a car avoids.

Yes, true. For the Two Together that would be simple - a named adult should be able to travel alone if they show both sets of tickets and the Railcard, as in that case they've overpaid, not underpaid. For the Family and Friends (and perhaps other ones if you've lost it or forgotten it) an excess of one of the adult fares to full price (at that same quota level if it's an Advance) should be allowed provided it's done before boarding.
 

AM9

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... For two named adults. If person A travels with both B and C enough to justify a railcard in total, but not enough with either separately, then they're stuck.
I would be in favour of amending the Two Together railcard to have one named holder, valid for that named holder travelling with any other adult. ...
That would make a Two Together Railcard similar to a national version of a Network Railcard.
 

JonathanH

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This is true for the Network railcard which you appear to support, so you have no justification for being against it on a national level.
Clearly there is merit in holding (supporting?) a Network Railcard for travel in the South East at present but when it is withdrawn, which it absolutely should be, it will just be one of those things and the Railway will be able to charge me a higher fare when I need or want to travel.

Lets take an example. The Anytime Day Return fare from Cambridge to London is £45.60. I would imagine that is pretty close to the economic cost of providing that train service. An off-peak day return is £27.60 and that becomes £19.50 if you go via the West Anglia line. At weekends, there are even cheaper fares at £18.80 via any route and £13.30 via the West Anglia line. This seems to have been set to be competitive without a railcard but a Network Railcard makes that latter fare £8.75.

It is preposterous that the Network Railcard is valid on that latter fare - it is effectively just discount (Network Railcard) on top of discount (Weekend) on top of discount (West Anglia route) on top of discount (Off-peak vs Peak). If the Contactless fare is set at £15 each way off peak and £25 each way peak, people will still travel and the railway will make more money.

Now, there might be some weeks in the year when the Railway notes that there are no events in the calendar likely to lead to people travelling and encourage use on those dates. That is when the railway should be offering discounts, not every week. [I note that there is nothing like Northern's off-season newspaper offer in the South of England - maybe that should happen on selected dates elsewhere - preferably on a day when it is raining and people don't all fill trains to the coast.]

Discounting needs to be about filling capacity that can't fill itself. A railcard for all, like the Network Railcard, simply isn't focussed enough in the current age.
 

yorksrob

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Clearly there is merit in holding (supporting?) a Network Railcard for travel in the South East at present but when it is withdrawn, which it absolutely should be, it will just be one of those things and the Railway will be able to charge me a higher fare when I need or want to travel.

Lets take an example. The Anytime Day Return fare from Cambridge to London is £45.60. I would imagine that is pretty close to the economic cost of providing that train service. An off-peak day return is £27.60 and that becomes £19.50 if you go via the West Anglia line. At weekends, there are even cheaper fares at £18.80 via any route and £13.30 via the West Anglia line. This seems to have been set to be competitive without a railcard but a Network Railcard makes that latter fare £8.75.

It is preposterous that the Network Railcard is valid on that latter fare - it is effectively just discount (Network Railcard) on top of discount (Weekend) on top of discount (West Anglia route) on top of discount (Off-peak vs Peak). If the Contactless fare is set at £15 each way off peak and £25 each way peak, people will still travel and the railway will make more money.

Now, there might be some weeks in the year when the Railway notes that there are no events in the calendar likely to lead to people travelling and encourage use on those dates. That is when the railway should be offering discounts, not every week. [I note that there is nothing like Northern's off-season newspaper offer in the South of England - maybe that should happen on selected dates elsewhere - preferably on a day when it is raining and people don't all fill trains to the coast.]

Discounting needs to be about filling capacity that can't fill itself. A railcard for all simply isn't focussed enough in the current age.

The railway needs to get bums on seats. The network railcard did that on the SE prior to covid, and it needs to continue to do that in spades. The same can be said of elsewhere now as well !
 

JonathanH

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The railway needs to get bums on seats. The network railcard did that on the SE prior to covid, and it needs to continue to do that in spades. The same can be said of elsewhere now as well !
It certainly needs money. If one person pays £50, that is better than four paying £10 so it isn't just about filling trains at low fares. In the Cambridge example, it needs loads of people paying £45, not loads of people paying £8.70.
 
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