A new railcard to cut the cost of peak-time travel for 16 to 18-year-olds who are studying or training is to be trialled from early next year.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train companies, has announced it will test the new railcard in at least one area next spring, with the possibility of a nationwide roll-out by September 2018. It follows the announcement of the new 26-30 Railcard, which is set to be trialled in the Greater Anglia area from later this week.
The key difference with the new 16-18 Railcard, which is yet to be formally named, is that there will be no minimum fare to use it at peak times – whereas with the current 16-25 Railcard there's a £12 minimum fare when used before 10am Monday to Friday.
It's not yet clear how much the new railcard will cost, though it's likely to be £30 as that's what the others cost. It's also yet to be decided which train company or companies will host the initial trial.
And it's not yet clear whether students will have to use the new card for one set journey between their home and college, or whether they can use it on all fares.
Under current plans the new railcard will only be valid until the user's 18th birthday, so some second-year college students could miss out, though the RDG has said it is still looking at this detail.
How will the new railcard differ from the 16-25 Railcard?
At the moment, details on the new railcard are scant. But here's what we know so far:
How the 16-18 and 16-25 Railcards compare
|16-25 Railcard (available now)
|16-18 Railcard (trialled from next spring)
|How much is it?
|TBC but expected to be "similar to existing railcards"
|Who can use it?
|16 to 25-year-olds (plus those aged 26 if you buy a 1yr card while 25 or a 3yr card while 23). Over-25s can also get it if in full-time education.
|16 to 18-year-olds – at the moment you WON'T be able to use it after your 18th birthday
|Is there a minimum fare?
|Yes, £12 minimum fare for most peak tickets before 10am Mon to Fri, excluding public holidays and July/Aug
|No – this is the major difference between the cards
|How big is the discount?
|A third off most fares
|A third off – though we don't yet know if it can be used on all routes
|What format will the card be?
|Physical card or a digital card via the railcard app
|Likely to be only available as a digital card via the railcard app
It's worth noting that while this is an initiative led by the RDG and a nationwide roll-out is planned, a number of train companies already have student offers. For example, c2c offers a free discount card giving a third off fares for students to certain stations near schools and colleges in the south Essex area, while Greater Anglia also offers discounted season tickets for certain schools.
What does the RDG say?
Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the RDG, said: "The railway has the potential to help young people across the country to cast their net wider for new opportunities in education, work and training, and train companies, working together, are making it happen.
"Our plan to improve the railway will help young people get on in life by letting them travel further and more frequently at lower cost."