A new railcard offering a 34 per cent discount on train tickets is being made available to veterans in the UK.
Who is eligible for the railcard?
The railcard - which will be the ninth national railcard in the UK - will be made available to "UK veterans who served at least one day in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces or Merchant Mariners who have seen duty on legally defined military operations.”
Captain Sir Tom Moore, who made headlines during lockdown after raising millions for the NHS during lockdown, was handed the first Veterans railcard, as a veteran of the Second World War.
The Rail Delivery Group, (RDG) who are administering the scheme, estimate that 830,000 people will be eligible for the railcard, which veterans can apply for from 5 November 2020.
How much will it cost?
The card will initially cost £21 for a year, or £61 for three years, but from the end March 2021, prices will rise to the usual £30 for a year or £70 for three.
Holders will be able to nominate a travel companion who can get the same discount when travelling with them. Up to four children travelling with the card holder can also get 60 per cent off.
As with other railcards, the card will be available in physical form or digitally, on a smartphone.
A £12 minimum fare will apply on rush hour journeys up to 10am Monday to Friday, though this restriction is lifted during July and August.
Two "open access" train operators on Grand Central, Hull Trains and the East Coast main line have declined to join the scheme, meaning the discount won't apply.
Why has it been introduced?
The UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said, “We have an eternal debt of honour to those who have served our country, and this railcard is part of marking our gratitude.
“For veterans looking to re-enter the world of work and connect with friends and family, it will cut the cost of travel to open up new opportunities.”
The chief executive of Help for Heroes, Melanie Waters, said of the new railcard, “The pandemic is having a lasting impact on veterans and their families both financially and socially, and its introduction will come at a welcome time.”
What’s happening with other railcards?
The announcement comes hot on the heels of railcard controversy, with millions of holders refused a refund or extension to their railcards, despite of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Rail Delivery Group has consistently rejected calls for refunds or extensions on railcards, even though holders were left unable to travel for several months thanks to coronavirus restrictions advising against non-essential travel.
A Railcard spokesperson 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 5.1 million 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."