I’m excited about the new young person’s rail card. Chancellor Philip Hammond just announced that discounted rail services will be available to traveller’s up to the age of 30. And that means I’ll be able to travel for cheaper so I am, pathetically, kind of excited. But not excited enough to ignore the glaring problem with a rail card that covers people like me— people at the age where we once thought we’d be buying a house and launching into adult lives. And that problem is: Why the hell do we need one?
I want guaranteed working hours, proper employment contracts and a minimum wage that covers everything from council tax to heating to a pint after an awful shift. I don't want a railcard that isn't even valid on commuter fares #Budget2017
— Kate Flood (@KateFlood) November 21, 2017
There are other problems too, of course. “The so called millennials’ card will be available from spring next year, and offer up to a third off non-peak fares,” the BBC explains. “This means the new railcard is unlikely to be much use for regular commuters, as railcard discounts are restricted at peak times, usually before 10am. Reaction to the new card was mixed with some people saying it would have little impact on them and others welcoming the move.” So the rail card won’t be good on peak trains which, if you live in London especially, is incredibly limiting. And they won’t work on season passes— so if you’re a commuter, they’ll be no help. (Oh, and season tickets are going up by 3.6 percent in January, so have fun with that.) As you can tell, there are a lot of reasons why this leaves a lot of young people without any assistance that actually affects the huge burden of travel costs.
Which brings us back to the larger problem. Why do people our age need rail cards in the first place? There’s something more than a little worrying about the fact that people in their late 20s, people who are in full time work, people who are adults are not being paid a living wage that covers their transport. We shouldn’t need aid in this department. Our jobs should pay us enough to get to our jobs without government funded assistance.
That new UK rail fare structure in full:
5-15: Yet to understand horror of world half price
16-30: Millennial skintness despair railcard third off
31-59: Forced into a relationship to get two together railcard third off
60+: Sweet release of death baby boomer railcard third off
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) November 21, 2017
It’s worse than just putting a bandaid on a gushing wound. It’s like a bandaid that screams, “NOTHING TO SEE HERE, EVERYTHING IS FINE, LOOK AT HOW GENEROUS I AM FOR BEING HERE WHEN YOU DON’T NEED ME AT ALL!” as you’re flailing. We’re not just ignoring the much larger problem, we’re distracting from it. Young people in full time work should be able to comfortably live, eat, travel, and save. Right now, that is a far into the distance pipe dream for far too many of us. We’re stuck in an unfair, impossible financial situation where wages haven’t grown and house prices have skyrocketed. And they’re placating us with a third off rail fares. Well, a third off rail fares that aren’t your commute or any other time you would like to travel.
As someone who will save money with the rail card, I am, somewhere, excited about it. But that’s because I’m saving money, not because it’s a good thing. And until our wages can give us a basic quality of life, rail cards will be nothing more than a shiny, flawed distraction.