During the early 1970s, some of British Rail's Regions offered a series of small, localised travel promotions for people of or near retirement age. The London Midland and Southern regions were particularly active in this, although other examples existed elsewhere. These promotions were characterised by restricted validity and geographical availability. For example, one Southern Region scheme introduced in 1970 offered pensioners half-price travel at off-peak times on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only, for journeys from a set list of around twenty stations, upon production of their pension book (to confirm their eligibility).
All of these schemes were superseded by the introduction of the first Senior Citizen Railcard (as it was then known), valid throughout Britain, on 1 April 1975. This took the form of a large, thin card (British Rail form number BR 24889A ) with a pre-printed expiry date of 31 March 1976 (so Railcards issued later in 1975 were valid for less than a full year), on which the holder's name, address, pension book number and signature had to be added. Holders had to meet one of the following criteria:
- Retirement pension book held; or
- Resident in United Kingdom with a pension received from another country; or
- No pension received, but aged over 65 and resident in United Kingdom.
The discounts available were relatively limited in relation to those available with the current Railcard:
- Half price travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only, in Second Class accommodation only; all Ordinary Single/Return and Day Single/Return fares were included
- 25% discounts on some Sealink ferry services, operated at the time by British Rail
At first, the Railcard cost £4.32 (£4.00 + 8% value added tax charge), although this was soon reduced to £4.00 when the VAT charge was removed.
A major change occurred as from 1 April 1976. A separate "Day Returns Only" Railcard, priced at £3.00, was introduced alongside the original Railcard, whose price was raised to £6.00. The cheaper Railcard gave discounts only on Day Return tickets—not on any Singles or Ordinary (Period) Returns. From the same date, two major enhancements were made, both of which applied to both types of Railcard: discounted travel could take place on any day of the week, and First Class travel gained the same discounts as Second Class. Also, a 50% discount was now given on Sealink ferry services to all destinations.
In the next few years, until the next major revision in 1985, the main changes to the Railcards' conditions related to the qualification criteria. From January 1978, these were extended slightly, with people aged 60 or over who received Widow's Pensions or War Widow's Pensions being included. From January 1980, anybody resident in Britain and aged at least 60 (for women) or 65 (for men), and British people living abroad but meeting these age criteria, could buy the Railcard. Finally, from 30 March 1984, a further simplification took place: anybody aged 60 or over could hold one. This condition still applies as of 2007. Other additions included the introduction of certain discounts on Motorail services, London Underground journeys (these were charged at child rate for Railcard holders), through travel to the Isle of Man and various European destinations, and discounts on all-inclusive holidays by rail.
12 May 1985 saw changes to the range of fares which received discounts, and in some cases to the level of the discounts, in respect of the "full" version of the Railcard (which by now cost £12.00). The "Day Returns Only" Railcard still gave 50% discounts on those fares, but the full version now gave only a 34% saving on Standard Single and Return fares and the new off-peak Saver tickets. ("Standard" was the new name for the former "Ordinary" category of ticket, being the highest priced and least restricted. These are now known as "Open" tickets.) A 50% discount was now only available on Day Returns and the new off-peak equivalent, the Cheap Day Return. Further restrictions on journeys by ferry and ship were made in 1985 and 1986, while Rover and Ranger tickets of all types ("go-anywhere" multi-journey tickets covering particular geographic areas) were included within the discount scheme from May 1987, with a saving of 34% available for Railcard holders.
By this time, the "Day Returns Only" card could only be used to buy Cheap Day Returns, following the introduction of the "Cheap Day" fare to distinguish between peak-time and off-peak journeys. "Cheap Day Returns Only" wording began to appear on these Railcards accordingly; but they were withdrawn from 10 January 1988, with the price of the "full" Railcard being increased from £12.00 to £15.00 at the same time. The APTIS ticket issuing system had been introduced in late 1986, and was still in the process of being rolled out across the British Rail network in 1988, so the APTIS "Cheap Day Returns Only" Railcard (form number BR 4599/18) is rarely seen. The first APTIS version of the full Railcard (BR 4599/17), with mauve upper and lower bands,B also lasted until 10 January 1988, at which point the following changes were made: security background (miniature repeats of the words "British Rail") was changed from the light green colour seen on most APTIS ticket stock to a dark pink; the upper and lower bands became dark brown; and part of the background was filled with the words "Senior Citizen Railcard" in cursive writing in white. This style lasted only until October 1988, at which point the white lettering changed to brown.
The Railcard was renamed Senior Railcard in May 1990.
From 5 January 1992, several changes were made to the discounts available. Reduced fares for journeys wholly on the London Underground network were withdrawn; children accompanying the Railcard holder no longer travelled for a £1.00 flat fare (see here); Day Singles and Day Returns for weekday journeys within the Network SouthEast area no longer received a discount, restricting Railcard holders to off-peak travel; and One Day Travelcard discounts became more restricted. From 1985, when the "One Day Capitalcard" (as it was then known) was introduced, Railcard holders gained a 50% discount. This applied from any Network SouthEast station either within or outside the Travelcard zonal area, and for Capitalcards valid for any combination of zones. The discount on "All Zones" Travelcards was reduced to 34% on 6 January 1991, although other zonal combinations still attracted a 50% discount. As from 5 January 1992, however, only the All Zones One Day Travelcard received any discount. (The level was maintained at 34%.)
There have been few significant changes since then, with frequent changes in the design of the Railcard being the most noticeable. On all types of ticket for which a discount is available, the level is 34%, as it has been since the changes of 1992; and the types of tickets which receive discounts remains largely the same. The discount is also available on most new ticket types introduced since then, such as SuperAdvance and Virgin Value. Similarly, there has been little change in the types of ticket excluded from receiving discounts; these are summarised here. The restriction on journeys made in the morning peak in the former Network SouthEast area (now known as the "London and South East area") also remains.
Read more about this topic: Senior Railcard
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