The Railcard helpline – actually part of the Rail Delivery Group (the trade association representing rail operators) have advised the DfT (an acronym my spell-checker is always seeking to change to “Daft”) has instructed them not to compensate people who had bought Railcards, but found themselves unable to use them during the 6 months of “advice not to travel”. This decision is wrong both morally and strategically. Morally, because the RDG are surely in breach of contract – selling you a pass for 33% discount on tickets, but then declining to offer leisure travel on the railway. And strategically because, at a time when commuter travel is expected to decline, DfT and rail operators need to be looking increasingly to the leisure travellers to help boost revenues. So why alienate the very customers the industry now needs to reach out to in order to get passenger numbers back to their pre COVID levels? Many Railcard holders will now feel cheated by the industry and probably not renew their railcard, and without the railcard discount, will think twice about travelling by train. At the beginning of lockdown, the rail industry excelled in its no quibble approach to refunds for the cheaper – normally non-refundable – tickets and compared very favourably to other parts of the holiday and leisure industry where customers struggled to get refunds and often had to make do with unusable vouchers. What a shame to now throw all that goodwill away when other organisations operating annual tickets or passes for facilities that closed during lockdown unilaterally decided to extend the validity of their annual tickets. A simple extension of validity to existing railcards, or offer of say 2 free tickets anywhere on the network whilst our trains are still empty (or both) would have been easy to administer and kept faith with the hapless customer.
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