Railcard & Season Tickets vs. Railpass
There is, especially amongst tourists to the UK, confusion between the difference between a Rail Card, Season Tickets and a Rail Pass. Rail Saver has gathered the following information to help clear up this confusion and explain as simply as possible the difference between a RailCard and a RailPass.
In brief a Rail Pass is ticket to travel on one or more trains in one or more countries that is purchased by the traveler in their home country prior to departing on their holiday.
A rail pass is not able to be purchased after your arrival in the country you wish to travel and must be purchased ahead of time and most rail passes may not be purchased by local residents (eg: Britrail passes may not be sold to UK residents).
There are many variations of rail passes available including European Regional Passes, European Rail and Drive Passes, European City Passes, Australia and New Zealand Passes, North American Passes and European Country Passes. To purchase a rail pass click here to access our International Rail travel page.
Rail Passes should not be confused with Season Tickets that you may purchase for any duration in the country you wish travel. Your local train operator can provide you with a weekly / monthly / annual season tickets that allow unlimited travel with few exceptions and restrictions.
In addition to the large number and variety of short-term or localised promotional fares that are available to passengers on the British railway network there are many permanent concessionary fare schemes available to passengers that take the form of Railcards.
A Rail Card is able to be used by specific groups of frequent train commuters to pay a lower price for their train tickets. There are three primary rail cards available in the UK all offering at least 30% off the fare you would have paid had you not held a rail card.
For details of each available RailPass make your selection from the drop-down menu below or scroll down this page to view all the various rail cards.
Participation in the Young Persons, Senior and Disabled Persons Railcard schemes is mandatory for all TOCs under their franchise agreements while the Family and HM Forces Railcard schemes are notionally voluntary, but all TOCs participate in them.
For the Network Railcard, which has a restricted geographical area, all TOCs in the relevant area are members of the scheme and participate in it.
You are able to purchase most Railcards at the same time your purchase your ticket at any UK railway station with a ticket sales counter or else by post from any of the train operating companies listed below.
The various Rail Cards and their respective benefits are:-
The Family Railcard is for groups of adults and children traveling together (you do not need to be from the same family). Kids save a massive 60% and adults one third on most national rail fares. Up to four children and four adults can travel on each card. Treat your family to days out by rail for less with a Family Railcard.
The Family Railcard discount isn't available on tickets on morning peak period services, Monday to Friday (not including Public Holidays) when journeys are made wholly within the London and South East area. This includes most South West Trains services to and from Waterloo. It's best to check with ticket office staff before buying your tickets.
If you travel regularly before 10am within the London and South East area, then a weekly or monthly season ticket may be more appropriate.
Easement to the London and South East area restriction
Tickets purchased with a Family Railcard may currently be issued and accepted for travel on the following services on Mondays to Fridays:
If you are aged 16-25 use a Young Persons Railcard and you save 1/3 on most rail fares throughout Great Britain for an entire year.
Also, all full-time students aged 26 or above may buy one. (In this instance, a "full-time student" are considered to be a person who studies at a "recognised educational establishment" for at least 15 hours per week and 20 weeks per year, or a person who holds an International Student Identity Card.)
The standard discount on the full adult fare is 34%, to the nearest £0.05 but not all ticket types qualify for a discount.
No discounts are available for accompanying children. In addition, when travelling within the former Network Southeast area in southeast England, a minimum fare of £8.00 for a single ticket and £16.00 for a return applies during peak hours. During July and August the minimum fare does not apply, however. Tickets issued at the minimum fare bear the wording MIN.
The Senior Persons Railcard is for people aged 60 or over who can benefit from one third off most rail fares—including First Class—with a Senior Railcard.
You can use your Senior Railcard with:
Your Senior Railcard can also provide discount on Gatwick Express, Stansted Express and Heathrow Express and Connect services for travel to and from those Airports.
The Senior Railcard discount isn't available on tickets when journeys are made wholly within the London and South East area (including all South West Trains services to and from London Waterloo) on morning peak period services, Monday to Friday (not including Public Holidays).
The only tickets you cannot use your Senior Railcard for purchasing are:- Railair Links (except for through rail tickets issued for travel via the Railair link between between Reading Station and Heathrow Airport), Eurostar,Special excursions or charters, some coach/bus links, Season tickets or period Travelcards and on special offers e.g. Apex.
The HM Forces Railcard is available to all members of the regular armed forces, certain reservists, and in most cases the partners and dependent children of eligible members.
Discounts for the Railcard holder are generally 34% (subject to minimum fares), although Supersaver, Saver and Advance/SuperAdvance tickets are discounted by 26%. Up to four accompanied children may travel at a 60% discount on the standard Child fare, with a £1.00 minimum fare.
HM Forces Railcards cost £10.00, and are distributed at a local level by the Pay and Administration Offices at the member's Unit.
If you have a disability that makes travelling by train difficult you may qualify for the Disabled Person's Railcard. The Railcard allows you - and an adult companion with you - to get a 1/3 off most Standard and First Class fares throughout Great Britain.
Buy a one year card, take a journey that usually costs £54 and the card has paid for itself. A three year card is also available.
You can get a 1/3 off all these ticket types: Cheap Day Singles and Returns. Standard Day Singles and Returns. Standard Open Singles and Returns. Savers. First Class Day Singles and Returns. First Class Open Singles and Returns. NetworkAwaybreaks.
You can also get discounts on London All Zones Off Peak Day Travelcards (subject to a minimum fare) and on some advance purchase tickets offered by individual Train Companies. Please enquire locally for details.
You can use your Disabled Persons Railcard on any of the above tickets that are valid during the morning peak! Please check before booking.
Tickets you cannot get include Season tickets and Travelcards that are valid for more than one day, all Travelcards except London All Zone Off Peak Day Travelcards, Eurostar tickets, Railair coach links, some coach/bus links, APEX tickets, Special excursions and charter trains as well as London Underground and Docklands Light Railway.
You must provide proof that you qualify for a disabled persons Railcard. You might qualify if you: have a visual impairment or a hearing impairment or have epilepsy or are in receipt of a disability related benefit. To check your eligibility and download an application form online (pdf file), click here.
The Department for Work and Pensions, through its executive agency the Employment Service (Jobcentre Plus), administers a scheme whereby unemployed people can gain discounts of 50% on a wide range of travel and Season tickets. This is intended to assist them in their search for employment, although they can be used for discounts on leisure journeys as well.
The Employment Service authorises and issues the cards, which are valid for three months at a time. Discounts are available on all Standard class travel tickets within England and Wales, Peak and Off Peak One Day Travelcards, Seven Day Season Tickets and Travelcards, and Longer Period (one month and more) Season Tickets and Travelcards, subject to the validity of the Photocard. There are no discounts for First Class fares. In all cases, the status code NDEAL is used on tickets.
There is a separate scheme in Scotland. Photocards are issued for periods of up to six months, but discounts are only available on Seven Day Season Tickets for journeys wholly within Scotland. JobCentres themselves also sell certain Standard Day Return tickets for Scottish journeys, again at a 50% discount.
The scheme is governed by an agreement between ATOC and Jobcentre Plus, which was renewed in 2002 and remains effective until either party proposes to end it.
For comprehensive information on New Deal Railcards please click here.
A Network Railcard allows you to save one third on leisure travel in the South East and lasts for 12 months.
It gives the holder one third off the price of off-peak travel. It cannot be used before 10:00 on weekdays but can be used any time at weekends. There is a £10 minimum fare for adults on weekdays - no minimum fare at weekends.
The Network card can be used to most destinations south and east of Milton Keynes including London and the south coast. It can also be used north to Northampton and on some trains in the Cotswolds. Leaflets with maps of the area covered are available from stations.
The holder can also buy discounted tickets for family or friends so long as the group travels together. Up to 3 adults and up to 4 children can travel with the holder. Child fares are reduced by 60% subject to a minimum fare of £1.
Tickets that can be bought with a Network Railcard
The Network Railcard can be used to buy the following tickets:
Cheap Day Singles and Returns, Standard Day Singles and Returns and Standard Open Singles and Returns, Savers and Network AwayBreaks. Discounts may also be obtained on the Off-Peak Day Travelcards (All Zones only) subject to a minimum fare.
You can also save on some rail/sea journeys to the Isle of Wight on Wightlink ships and with Red Funnel Ferries & ‘Red Jet’ services. Special adult minimum fares and special higher child fares apply on these services.
Please note that not every ticket type is available for every journey that you may wish to make and that some time and train restrictions may apply. Please ensure you check before booking tickets.
Tickets that cannot be bought with a Network Railcard
Your Network Railcard cannot be used for travel in First Class, on Railair Links, on Gatwick Express, Eurostar, special excursions or charters, to buy season tickets or period Travelcards or in conjunction with some Train Company special offers.
Time Restrictions & Minimum Fares
Discounts are available after 10:00 Mondays to Fridays and all day on weekends and public holidays.
Discounted adult fares are subject to a £10 minimum fare, Monday to Friday (this does not apply at weekends or on Public Holidays). The £10 minimum fare applies to each individual adult travelling as part of the Network Railcard group, not to the total value of tickets purchased.
Discounted child fares are subject to a £1 minimum fare at all times.
Easement of the First Great Western and First Great Western Link Route
Tickets purchased with a Network Railcard may currently be issued and accepted for travel on the following services before the normal 10.00 hrs restriction applicable on Mondays to Fridays :-
Easement of the South West Trains Route
Easement to Southern Route
Easement to the South Eastern Trains Route
Easement to the West Anglia Northern Route
The following service may be used by Network Railcard holders before 10.00 hrs on Mondays to Fridays, subject to the usual minimum fare:-
Easement to the One Railway Route
The following services may be used by Network Railcard holders before 10.00 hrs on Mondays to Fridays, subject to the usual minimum fare:-
To apply for a Network Railcard, pick up a form at your local participating station.
About Season Tickets (aka Travelcards)
A Season Ticket / Travelcard is an inter-modal ticket, valid for a period of time varying from one day to a year, for use on most public transport in London. The ticket is issued by Transport for London and National Rail outlets and can be used on the services of either usually covers a specific route only.
Season Tickets / Travelcards provide travel within six numbered concentric zones, with Zone 1 (which includes the central areas of The City and the West End) at the middle and Zone 6 (which includes London Heathrow Airport and places such as Uxbridge, Upminster and Orpington) at the outer edge (Travelcard zones map on TfL website).
Other Available Regional Rail Network Railcards
Several rail networks offer their own railcards for travel on their trains. Brief details of these card and known benefits / restrictions are listed below:-
Cardholders must be aged 16 or over, no co-holders can be named, and there are no discounts for accompanying adults or children. A discount of 34% is available on Day Singles, Cheap Day Returns, Saver and Supersaver tickets on the Cambrian Coast route between Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth and Machynlleth. The Railcard can only be purchased at Aberystwyth and Machynlleth stations, and is only available to residents of the area.
Cotswold Line Railcard
This gives 34% discounts on Standard Day and Cheap Day singles and returns between Worcester Foregate Street and Oxford (and intermediately). Cardholders must be aged 16 or over, no co-holders can be named, and there are no discounts for accompanying adults or children. The Railcard can be bought at any staffed station on the route. The discount is not available until the 0842 train from Worcester and the 0848 train from Oxford on weekdays, but there are no weekend restrictions.
This and gives a discount of 34% on all Standard Day, Cheap Day and Saver tickets. Cardholders must be aged 16 or over, and no co-holders can be named, but up to four accompanied children can travel at a 60% discount on the standard Child fare (subject to a £1.00 minimum fare). Only residents in certain postcode areas within the region of validity may apply.
Devon & Cornwall Railcard
This Railcard, covering the counties of Devon and Cornwall, was introduced on 10 September 2006 to replace two Railcards which covered the counties separately: the Devon Railcard and the Cornish Railcard. It gives discounts for the holder (who must be aged 16 or over) and one accompanying adult of 34% on Cheap Day and Saver Singles and Returns for journeys wholly within the two counties, and 34% on the countywide Devon Day Ranger and Cornwall Day Ranger tickets, and line-specific Rangers for the following branch lines: Atlantic Coast Line, Looe Valley Line, Maritime Line, Tamar Valley Line and Tarka Line. The only exception is the St Ives Bay Line Day Ranger, which is discounted by 50% when the Railcard is used. Up to four children can accompany the adult(s) for a flat fare of £1.00 each for point-to-point tickets, or £2.00 for Day Rangers. While the array of discounts is broadly the same as those available with the Devon Railcard, the former Cornish Railcard offered 34% discounts on Standard Day Singles and Returns as well. These tickets were available for travel during the peak period (before 9.30am).
Esk Valley Railcard
This gives a discount of 34% on all Standard Day, Cheap Day and Saver tickets. Cardholders must be aged 16 or over, and no co-holders can be named, but up to four accompanied children can travel at a 60% discount on the standard Child fare (subject to a £1.00 minimum fare). The railcard is only available to residents living in the boroughs of Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland and the Hambleton, Scarborough and Ryedale districts of North Yorkshire. Discounts are available on journeys between Whitby and Great Ayton inclusive, and also for journeys from these stations to the other stations on the line - Nunthorpe, Gypsy Lane, Marton and Middlesbrough. The 34% discount, and accompanying child discount (again subject to the £1.00 minimum fare), is also available on the Tees Day Ranger ticket, which offers unlimited journeys on the route in one day.
Heart of Wales Line Railcard
This is available to residents (aged 16 or over) of certain postal districts along the line of the route, which runs from Swansea to Shrewsbury. A 34% discount is available on all fares for journeys between any two stations on the route. Up to two children can accompany the cardholder for a flat fare of £2.00. The Railcard may only be purchased at Llandrindod station.
This is available to applicants aged 16 or over who live in certain areas of the north and west Highlands of Scotland - principally the IV and KW postal districts. A 50% discount is available for the cardholder for all journeys on the following routes, with up to two children accompanying the cardholder being charged a £2.00 flat fare:
This is available to residents (aged 16 or over) of certain postal districts in Pembrokeshire. Discounts of 34% are available on most journeys on the routes collectively known as the West Wales Line: the Fishguard Harbour, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock branch lines, and the common section from Whitland via Carmarthen through to Swansea. Standard Day Returns do not receive the discount, and tickets bought with the Railcard cannot be used on the section of the Heart of Wales line between Swansea and Llanelli. The Railcards can be bought at Haverfordwest and Carmarthen stations.
Valleys Line Railcards
On the Valley Lines network in South Wales, discounts are available with two Railcards. These are:-
Valleys Senior Railcard - This gives a 50% discount on Cheap Day Return fares for journeys wholly within the Valley Lines area. There are no discounts for accompanying passengers. Tickets are issued with status code VAL-S.
Valleys Student Railcard - This gives a 26% discount on Standard Day and Cheap Day Single and Return fares in the area, and a 10% discount on Seven Day Season Tickets. This is the only Railcard anywhere in Great Britain that offers a discount on Season Tickets (although New Deal Photocards also do).
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