The government has this evening ruled out giving refunds to people holding railcards they have been unable to use – or granting a time extension – despite ongoing travel restrictions in place as a result of coronavirus.
There are an estimated 5.1m railcards in circulation in the UK, typically triggering discounts of about a third on ticket prices, and valid for a year.
But restrictions brought in to contain the coronavirus mean that train services have been cut and only essential journeys made by key workers, so it is unlikely many cards have been used. There are seven cards, including senior railcards for the 60-plus age group and a 16 – 25 card for younger travellers.
A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which administers the scheme, said:
After careful consideration, the government has confirmed to us that railcards will remain non-refundable and will not be extended.
We understand that this decision may not be the news our customers had been hoping for. Refunding or extending railcards for over 5.1m customers would come at a significant cost to the taxpayer at a time when the focus must be on maintaining rail services to support the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
The news will be a disappointment not only to railcard holders but also to the passenger group Transport Focus which had been calling for either an extension or a discount on renewal.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:
Passengers bought railcards in good faith and will be disappointed by the decision not to extend them or offer a discount on renewal to make up for the period when we were encouraged not to travel.
While the Government continues to provide high levels of support to make sure the day to day railway keeps operating, it seems a pity some slack could not be given on this issue to encourage people back to rail travel.
The Rail Delivery Group has created an FAQ page here.