The UK government has ruled out granting refunds or extensions to people who hold railway cards that were unable to use them due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The program, which offers about a third of discounts on travel, is available to a wide range of groups across Britain – including seniors, ages 16 to 25, families and the disabled. It operates in England, Scotland and Wales but not in Northern Ireland.
Guardian Money has been flooded with letters from readers – including self-protecting seniors – asking why they are not entitled to a refund or an extension of time for cards they could not use.
Most cards cost riders £ 30 for a year, meaning that getting 5.1 million customers back from their holders could cost £ 150m.
Rail Delivery Group manages the railcard scheme and a spokesperson said: “After careful consideration, the government has assured us that the rail cards will remain non-refundable and will not be extended. We understand that this decision may not be the news our customers were hoping for.
“Retrieving or extending railway cards to more than 5.1 million customers will cost the taxpayer a significant cost at a time when the focus must be on maintaining rail services to support the country’s recovery from the epidemic.”
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“Passengers bought the rail tickets in good faith and will be disappointed by the decision not to extend them or offer a renewal discount to compensate for the period in which we were encouraged not to travel,” said Anthony Smith, chief executive officer of the independent watchdog Transport Focus.
“While the government continues to provide high levels of support to ensure that the daily railways continue to operate, it seems regrettable that some indulgence cannot be given on this issue to encourage people to return to rail travel.”