The 26-30 Railcard will be put back on sale and made available to millions more people, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal – but it could be many months before you're able to get your hands on one if you missed out earlier this week.
On Tuesday a nationwide trial of the 26-30 Railcard – which gives those aged 26 to 30 a third off most rail fares – was launched. But the 10,000 cards made available as part of the trial were snapped up in just a few hours.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents rail firms and launched the trial, has so far refused to confirm if there will be a wider roll-out of the so-called "millennial railcard", saying only that it is waiting on the outcome of the year-long trial.
But the Government today confirmed to MoneySavingExpert that it stands by Chancellor Philip Hammond's statement in last year's Autumn Budget that the new railcard would give "4.5 million more young people a third off their rail fares" – and it insists a wider roll-out WILL happen.
For more ways to save on the cost of rail travel, see our Cheap Train Tickets guide.
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What is the 26-30 Railcard?
The new railcard works in a similar way to the existing 16-25 Railcard. It gives you a third off most rail fares for a year, with a £12 minimum fare applying between 4.30am and 10am Monday to Friday for anytime and off-peak single and return tickets.
You can purchase the 26-30 Railcard – when available – up to and including the day before your 31st birthday and you can then keep using it until its expiry date. It cost £30 when launched earlier this week.
Plans for a 26-30 Railcard were first revealed by MoneySavingExpert in October last year. It was then formally announced in the Autumn Budget, when Hammond said: "For those who don't stretch to a private jet, I can announce a new railcard, for those aged 26-30, giving 4.5 million more young people a third off their rail fares."
Some 10,000 railcards were released in the Greater Anglia area in December last year as part of a trial, and on Tuesday 10,000 more railcards were released nationwide.
When will the 26-30 Railcard go back on sale?
The RDG has admitted there has been "unprecedented demand" for the 26-30 Railcard, but remains tight-lipped about what happens next, saying only that it will look at the results of the trial to "inform discussions with the Government around their commitment to a national roll-out".
However, a Government spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the Treasury and Department for Transport, has told MoneySavingExpert that it will be sticking to its budget pledge, with the railcard offered to millions in the 26-30 age bracket and no cap on the number of cards made available.
The spokesperson said: "The Government welcomes the industry's next step in delivering the 26-30 Railcard as announced in the Budget. This extension is good news for rail users and will help make journeys more affordable for young people."
He added: "This week was a trial on the way to further roll-out."
There's no indication yet of when the wider roll-out will resume. The train firms will assess how successful the trial has been and how much the card has been used. They're likely to focus on how many extra off-peak leisure journeys have been made using the railcard (though some commuters can also use the card).
It may be that the RDG will then announce a further roll-out of the card. But if it doesn't – for example, if the trial is deemed unsuccessful or unaffordable – there are a number of ways the Government could force a further roll-out and stick to its pledge.
Dr Nigel G Harris, who has a PhD in rail fares and is managing director of the Railway Consultancy, confirmed to MoneySavingExpert options could include:
- Adding the 26-30 Railcard to the Railways Act 1993 – ie, make it a mandatory requirement. This would be the most extreme option, and it is likely train firms would ask for cash for any losses as a result. The 16-25, Senior and Disabled Railcards are already included in the act.
- Amending train companies' franchise agreements to require them to offer the 26-30 Railcard. Again, train firms could try to recover any losses.
- A gradual roll-out over a number of years with the Government writing the 26-30 Railcard into each separate franchise agreement as they come up for renegotiation.
'It's reassuring to hear the Government is committed to a full roll-out'
Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert, said: "After the stampede on Tuesday when the 10,000-card trial sold out almost immediately, this is good news for millennials who missed out. There's clearly a huge appetite for this card, so it's reassuring to hear the Government is committed to a full roll-out.
"What remains to be seen is what happens next – and how long those aged 26-30 have to wait. Rail firms should be clear about when they'll be assessing the results of the trial and what they'll be assessing it on. Demand from passengers is obviously not a problem.
"In the meantime, remember that while railcards can slash the cost of train travel, they're not the only way. Booking early, splitting your tickets, making sure you don't pay booking fees and finding hidden promos are just some of the tricks you can use to keep costs down."
What do rail firms say?
An RDG spokesperson said it is awaiting the outcome of the trial before releasing any more information about the roll-out of the 26-30 Railcard.
She added: "A key commitment in the rail industry's long-term plan to change and improve is to boost communities by enabling more people to travel by train.
"We have extended the trial so that we can inform discussions with the Government around their commitment to a national roll-out of the 26-30 Railcard. We will also be using the insight we gather as part of the national trial to build upon the hundreds of railcard discounts we currently offer."