Millions of railcard holders have been told they won’t get a refund – or an extension – on their passes, despite not being able to use them during lockdown.
The scheme, which offers a third off rail fare with certain restrictions, is available to a wide group of people in Britain.
Some 5.1million people have a railcard, which are available for 16 to 25 year-olds, 26 to 30 year-olds, senior citizens and families with young children.
Millions of railcard holders were told they won’t get a refund or an extension on their passes
Using a railcard can help travellers save dramatically on their train fare, with most of the cards costing £30 per person – the disabled persons railcard is available at a cheaper rate of £20 per year.
It can pay for itself if paying for a £100 ticket for example, or £10 tickets over 10 journeys.
With the majority of the 5.1million customers paying for a £30 railcard, if the firm had decided to refund cardholders, it could cost upwards of £150million.
But many are simply after a part-refund for not being able to use it over a four month period, who may even be happy to just have an extension to their card.
A Railcard spokesperson said: ‘We understand that this decision may not be the news our customers had been hoping for.
‘Refunding or extending Railcards for over 5.1million customers would come at a significant cost to the taxpayer at a time when the focus must be on maintaining rail services to support the country’s recovery from the pandemic.’
The Government also emphasised the importance of maintaining services while passenger numbers are down.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘We took immediate action at the outbreak of the pandemic to support the rail industry, keeping the services people depend on running, protecting jobs, and delivering refunds on all advance fares, as well as removing charges for cancellations
‘With fares revenue having fallen to less than 5 per cent of pre-Covid levels, we must ensure we are fair to taxpayers and focus investment on maintaining services, to enable social distancing and support our economic recovery.’
Passenger numbers on the railways are still down as people continue to work from home
Commuters faced similar misery earlier this year after they had to wait months before getting a refund on their already paid for season tickets.
Most train operators said that for any tickets they have sold, they waived ‘refund fees’ on most refundable fares – Anytime, Off-Peak, Super Off-Peak and Rover/Ranger – and all waived the ‘change of journey fee’ for advance tickets which is normally £10.
However, some train operators charged a £10 admin fee for refunds to season tickets.
Trainline also faced backlash after initially insisting it would only issue refunds after customers printed off and posted a form, along with their physical train ticket.
This would have forced customers to go outside to post the letter, despite strict government instructions advising people to stay inside due to the coronavirus.
The postage fee could also have cost anywhere up to £10.
However, it changed its mind after hearing customer complaints and allowed ticket holders to apply for refunds via email.