The Millennial Railcard is a Poor Compromise for Millennials in Crisis

The Millennial Railcard is a Poor Compromise for Millennials in Crisis

One of the measures announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget was the extension of the 16-25 railcard to now include those aged 26-30. This will affect up to 4.6 million people when it comes into effect in spring 2018. The measure, nicknamed ‘The Millennial Railcard’, appears, on the surface, like a good improvement to an already key discount. However, it principally reveals that the Tories are aware of the financial crisis facing those under 30 and their lack of idea of how to properly deal with it.

The measure was labelled ‘an insult to a generation. [Philip Hammond] doesn’t actually intend to help’ by Harriet Williamson for the Independent. To some, the measure appears to be an attempt by the Tories to entice young voters, following a significant rise in young Labour voters in the 2017 General Election.

The extension of the railcard is a cover: the Tories expect us to accept a society where basic needs, such as transport, need to be subsidised by the government. Offering this discount to those aged 26-30 suggests that those in this age bracket need this help. These people are still establishing themselves professionally and financially, in a way previous generations were not.

Millennials face other, more significant problems than rail fares: sky-high house prices, wages overtaken by inflation, and a realistic living wage, to name a few. The railcard extension is an insult. First-time buyers are getting older and house prices and deposits are increasing. For many, the idea of getting a mortgage and owning their own home is a dream. And if that dream becomes a reality, it will be years after the age at which our parents achieved this milestone. What significant measures are the government implementing to combat this problem?

The 16-25 railcard was first introduced in 1974, offering up to a third off of off-peak rail fares, in an attempt to fill seats on off-peak train services. Today, the railcard is essential to many young people, with National Rail claiming an average annual saving of £187 for users. What was once introduced as a measure to help out the railway services is now an indispensable discount for millions, demonstrating how truly broken our transport system is.

The UK’s rail prices are grossly higher than in other European countries. Railcards only work at off-peak times, eliminating any discount to commuter fares, often the most expensive rail fares. Earlier this year, Action for Rail reported that commuters travelling between Luton and London St Pancras were spending an average of £378 per month on their rail fare, 14% of the average UK wage. For a similar length route in France and Italy, the monthly price is around £60, or 2-3% of the average wage. It’s no wonder those in their late-twenties need this discount when our rail fares are this expensive.

Saddled with insecurity in all aspects of life, millennials are the first generation considered to be worse off than their parents and a railcard is simply not a good enough solution.

Eleanor Smith

(Image courtesy of Anna Sudit Refinery 29)