The 26-30 railcard, dubbed the ‘millennial’ railcard, launched online on March 13th. For only £30 customers could get a third off the cost of peak travel – a massive bargain considering the amount of money that goes into transport.
The card can be used on the London Underground. It gives a third off of a Zones 1-6 Off-Peak Day Travelcard, subject to the minimum fare of £8, and the same discount on a Zones 1-9 Travelcard as an add-on to a ticket into London, subject to a minimum £17.20 fare. The railcard can also be loaded on to your Oyster card, to save a third off single off-peak fares.
The chancellor, Philip Hammond, said in his budget speech in November that the railcards would give “4.5 million more young people a third off their rail fares”. However, chaos ensued not only because only 10,000 cards were made available but also due to technical errors meaning the website was crashing regularly due to popular demand. Emily Thomas, from London, wrote: “Getting a 26-30 railcard is worse than getting a Glastonbury ticket. Sort out your website to make it fair!”
Many customers found themselves calling National Rail in a desperate attempt to get one of the railcards. Those who tried to call were shocked to find themselves not only on hold for up to an hour but also charged for their calls. One unlucky customer was charged almost £40 for the call after buying the £30 railcard bringing up the cost to almost the same cost as the standard £70 railcard. Another unlucky customer racked up £68.95 in phone charges just trying to get through.
The extreme popularity of the railcard goes to show the extortionate fees that people have to pay for travel especially for those living and working near London. The average person spends nearly 14% of their monthly income just on commuting.
However, despite a third off transport, the railcard is not without faults. The railcard is digital only and loaded onto your mobile phone meaning that you have to show the train conductor the card on your phone, this also means that if your phone was to run out of battery you would have to pay the full price of a ticket or a penalty fare. It cannot be used on Eurostar, Charter, and Heritage Railway services. A £12 minimum fare will also apply for journeys starting between 4.30am and 10am Monday to Friday, excluding advance fares.
The 10,000 millennial railcards will serve as a trial period to see how popular they are. The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, urges people to sign up for updates to find out when and if they will be able to buy one another time. However, due to age restrictions this was the only opportunity for anyone turning 31 to buy one. This comes after a 3.4% increase in train fares across the UK in January. The biggest increase in train fares since 2013.