‘Help railcard users access tube discounts,’ demand mayoral contenders

Conservative Susan Hall and Lib Dem Rob Blackie want TfL to help railcard users access the discounts they’re entitled to, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Tory Susan Hall (left) and Lib Dem Rob Blackie (right) both want railcard discounts to be better publicised
Tory Susan Hall (left) and Lib Dem Rob Blackie (right) both want railcard discounts to be better publicised

Two of Sadiq Khan’s opponents in the upcoming City Hall election have urged the capital’s Labour mayor to help Londoners take advantage of a little-known tube discount.

Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall and Liberal Democrat candidate Rob Blackie have both said that Transport for London (TfL) should make it easier for national railcard holders to benefit from the cheaper travel they’re entitled to on the underground.

Owners of railcards such as the 16-25 Railcard, the 26-30 Railcard or the Senior Railcard can all benefit from a 1/3 discount for journeys made on the tube, overground, DLR or Elizabeth Line during off-peak hours on weekdays, or all day on weekends.

The daily ‘caps’ are also reduced with a railcard, so long as journeys are made within off-peak hours. For example, off-peak journeys between zones one to three are ordinarily capped at £9.60 a day, but with the railcard discount, the equivalent cap is £6.30.

The discount can only be applied to Oyster cards, despite the fact that more than three quarters of pay-as-you-go TfL journeys are now paid for with contactless bank cards or mobile devices.

According to TfL’s most recent data, spanning 7th January to 3rd February this year, around 18% of all Oyster pay as you go journeys on tube and rail services were made by cards with a Railcard discount. This is about 4.2% of all pay as you go journeys made on the network, including those made using contactless.

Accessing the cheaper travel can be difficult, as it requires a TfL staff member to apply the discount onto a person’s Oyster card for them – and only some staff have the ability to do it.

The saving is not advertised by TfL itself at any tube station, meaning that many of those eligible for the discount are unaware of it – though TfL points out that railcards are a National Rail product and are therefore “for the train operating companies to promote”. TfL also has a section on its website explaining how people can access the discount.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Hall said: “It is disappointing that TfL has made it so difficult for people to benefit from their railcard discounts and I would like to see some improvements made.

“As mayor, I will be conducting a full review of TfL, ensuring it listens to Londoners and offers the best possible service.”

Lib Dem candidate Blackie told the paper: “It is far too difficult for Londoners to access railcard discounts on the tube. The young, disabled and armed forces are all entitled to cheaper travel but many of them do not know it and TfL has made it deliberately difficult to access.

“The mayor could easily make use of vacant advertising space on the network to promote the railcard discounts and must find a much easier way for people to apply their discounts at stations. It is not good enough to rely on the potluck of whether a station staffer knows how to do it.

“If Sadiq Khan really cared about Londoners saving money in the cost of living crisis, then this is exactly the sort of practical thing he could be doing. Instead, he prefers the headline-chasing of his phoney fares freeze election gimmick – that will almost exclusively benefit tourists, not everyday Londoners.”

Responding, Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “TfL speak regularly with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), with the train operating companies.

“Indeed, we’re speaking with them right now, in relation to off-peak Friday. I’ll make sure that TfL also mention whether there’s more work the RDG can do with TfL to highlight the issue raised.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “Railcards are a National Rail product and therefore they are for the train operating companies to promote. However, information about railcard discounts on Oyster pay as you go is available on our website and is also included in literature given to those who apply for a railcard.”

“TfL also provides its own concessions specifically for services in London which are separate/in addition to any discount offered by the national railcard scheme.

“We are always looking at how we can improve the pay as you go system and this includes looking at national railcards, which are a National Rail-led product, being potentially associated to customers using pay as you go with contactless in the future. However, any work to implement this would be in the longer term and dependent on agreed funding to deliver this.”

A spokesperson for National Rail said: “We have previously run campaigns across TfL’s estate, on behalf of the rail industry, to generate awareness around the discounts railcard customers can benefit from when they travel by train – the last 16-25 railcard campaign we ran with them highlighted the Oyster discount on the tube.”

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