The last general election made it clear for the Conservatives that they needed younger votes after the vast majority of under-30s backed Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.
So, in an effort to win over these younger voters Chancellor Hammond announced that from spring next year railcard discounts will be extended to up to 30-year-olds.
According to the treasury this initiative would help keep the cost of living down for around 4.5 million young people. Additionally, people can keep the new railcard until they turn 32, as long as they apply the day before their 31st birthday. It is estimated that people who have a rail card at the moment save up to £190 a year, and anything that cuts costs for younger people has got to be a good thing.
However, with the majority of 20-somethings in employment, the millennial railcard may prove of little use to them as discounts are restricted at peak times, usually before 10am, which means it’s useless for a regular journey to work. So commuting will be just as expensive. It also cannot be used on season tickets, which means it will bring limited relief to those about to be hit by January’s rail price increase of 3.6 per cent, the highest in 4 years.
Overall, rail travel won’t be getting cheaper so you can still expect to pay more for a London-Edinburgh train fare than a return flight to Barcelona. Basically the millennial card is just an off-peak trips, weekend, solo travel or long-distance travel alternative, and there are already other ways to get discounts on these such as: the Two Together card, Family and Friends card, the Group Save Scheme and the Network Railcard.
Unions have made it clear that they’re not happy with the initiative, calling it an ’empty gesture’ and a ‘desperate ploy’.
Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary said:
‘Rather than gimmicks, we need a Budget that offers serious investment in Britain’s ageing infrastructure and addresses the housing and living standards crisis people are facing’.
Mick Cash, General Secretary of the RMT rail union, said:
‘People under thirty will be rightly angry when they find out the extension of the rail card won’t cover their regular journey to work. Instead of stunts like this we need decent fares for all and an end to the great British rail rip-off’.
As for Labour’s offer we know it is substantially different, promising to nationalise the railways entirely. However, whether it’ll make travel cheaper is matter of debate.