British Rail sale: Destinations and dates included as one million discounted train tickets

Officials said offering half-price train tickets is “one of the ways” the government is helping families with living expenses, after previously announcing measures to defer energy bills and offering tax breaks to some households

The sale starts next Tuesday
The sale starts next Tuesday

A government-backed “Great British Rail Sale” will begin next month to lure travelers back onto trains after all Covid restrictions are eased.

The Department for Transport said the offer is “further support for families with the cost of living” at a time of high inflation.

Around a million tickets will be reduced, some to less than £3, but overall that accounts for just 1% of all available rail journeys.

But it will target off-peak intercity travel, meaning peak-hour commuters are unlikely to benefit.

Fares include a single journey from London to Edinburgh for £22, Manchester to Newcastle for £10.30 and Birmingham to Bristol Temple Meads for £12.60.

The discounted tickets are only available for a period of five weeks before the next mid-year holiday from April 25th to May 27th and are not expected to be available over the first bank holiday weekend in May.

However, commuter fares are not included


Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Better Transport campaign said the sale was a useful first step in getting people back on trains when the pandemic subsides.

About 285 million rail journeys were made in the UK in the final three months of 2021 – just 62% of pre-coronavirus levels, according to the Office of Rail and Road.

Former Transport Secretary Norman Baker said: “It can show Treasury that the way to increase revenue is to lower fares, not keep increasing them and driving people off the railways.”

However, unions and Labor opposed the scheme. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This headline-grabbing gimmick will not help commuters at all… Professionals need affordable rail travel every day.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “The rail system and the traveling public do not need short-term gimmicks. We need a well-financed railway that is inexpensive and reliable over the long term.”

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said: “This temporary respite will be of small consolation to passengers who have had thousands stolen from their pockets since 2010 as fares have skyrocketed.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announces the sale in a bizarre video

Advice to avoid travel during the pandemic and the subsequent shift to working from home has resulted in a number of regular passengers abandoning the railway. According to the latest preliminary DfT figures, passenger traffic has only returned to around 75% of pre-Covid levels.

It comes after the biggest fare increases in nine years for rail travelers in England and Wales came into effect last month.

Government-set regulated rail fares rose 3.8% in line with RPI inflation last month after rising 1% above RPI inflation in 2021.

Meanwhile, train operators and Network Rail have been ordered by the DfT to deliver cost savings of 10% to 15% after the Treasury spent an extra £15bn to subsidize rail for lost revenue over the past two years.

How many tickets are on sale?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said more than a million train tickets would be reduced this spring.

The Department for Transport (DfT) hopes the move will help struggling households afford to travel across the UK and boost the domestic tourism industry.

What rides are included?

The sale is expected to take some Manchester to Newcastle journeys to just over £10, while seating on some London to Edinburgh services will be cut from £44 to £22.

Other expected savings on travel include a single journey from York to Leeds from £5.60 to £2.80, London to Cardiff from £47 to £25 and Portsmouth Harbor to Penzance from £45.70 £22 is reduced.

Most tickets are offered at half price.

Almost all available tickets are probably advance fares. These require a prior commitment to a specific train.

But just like airline tickets, the price varies based on demand. The following reduced prices were mentioned by the DfT:

  • Edinburgh-London (LNER): £22
  • Cardiff-London (GWR): £25
  • Manchester-Newcastle (TransPennine Express): £10.30
  • Birmingham New Street-Bristol Temple Meads (CrossCountry): £12.60
  • Wolverhampton-Liverpool (West Midlands trains): £5.25

When does the sale start?

Discounted tickets will go on sale from Tuesday, with passengers traveling between April 25 and May 27 for less on off-peak fares.

Will it include the long bank holiday weekend?

It does not apply to travel during half term or during the four day UK bank holiday weekend 2-5 June marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

As soon as you can. A million tickets sounds like a lot, but compared to the usual train journeys in 33 days (more than 160 million) it is tiny. Many trains will sell out very quickly from cheap tickets.

Is the discount available for every ride?

no The DfT says: “Great British Rail Sale tickets are not available on all routes, they are limited and subject to availability and exclusions.”

Most tickets do not qualify, including Anytime, Off-Peak (except in some cases), Seasons and Flexi-Seasons.

Do Bahncard discounts also apply?

Yes, which lowers those rates by an additional 34 percent. Between Cardiff and London, for example, the £25 ticket is reduced to £16.50.

Can I book first class?

No, but individual rail operators may have upgrade offers that can be used in conjunction with a discounted ticket.

How do I book?

The DfT says: “Customers should stop by to see what discounts are available for the place they want to visit.”

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