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Railcards are money saving passes targeted at leisure travellers to encourage them to use the British railway network on their travels.
There are many Railcards all aimed at their own target niche market, but the broad idea of all of them are that you pay an upfront flat fee for a Railcard, with a one or three years duration that enables you to get significant discounts on nearly all train tickets throughout Britain.
The initial cost of the Railcard doesn't justify their use just for one or two journeys, but if you regularly use the railways for leisure travel or are using the railways to tour the UK they are very well worthwhile looking at.
16-25 Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares - For those between 16 and 25 or over 25 in full-time education.
Two Together Railcard (1 year) - 1/3 off train fares - For those over 16 travelling as a couple (not morning peak)
Family & Friends Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults, 60% off children's fares aged 5 to 15 years.
To use it, at least one of the group travelling must be named on the Railcard and there must also be at least one child travelling on a child rate ticket. The maximum size of group that can use a Railcard to obtain discounts is 4 adults and 4 children. The named Railcard holder must travel for the entire journey with any passengers who have been bought discounted tickets.
Senior Railcards (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults over 60 or over.
Disabled Person Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults who are claiming disability benefits or are registered as disabled. A travelling companion also gets the discount too.
Network Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults, 60% off children's fares aged 5 to 15 years for trains in the Network Railcard area (London and South East England). Restricted to the card holder and up to 3 friends.
For the train journeys from outside London to the main London termini in Central London you can apply your Railcard discount to most anytime and off-peak fares, both single and return.
The above is the broad nature of the facility but there are exceptions and there may well be minimum fares, especially Monday to Friday at peak commute hours. See the official web site for your Railcard for precise exclusions.
Perhaps the easiest way to check fares availability for your Railcard is to run a query on an on-line travel planner like the Trainline website and see if you can apply your Railcard to the fares being offered on the time and date you want to travel.
Most people visiting London are for the most part travelling around the very centre of London where nearly all the attractions and hotels are situated, (zones 1 and 2). The London Underground and London's famous red buses are not part of the railway network so only have very limited access by those with a Railcard.
You cannot use Railcards directly to purchase tickets on the London Underground or Docklands Light Railway, but there is limited opportunity to purchase off-peak Travelcards zones 1 to 6 and Oyster cards off peak fares using your Railcard.
The paragraphs below look at what you can use your Railcard for in London and the London area.
Airport trains - (Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express and Stansted Express) - All Railcards except the Network Railcard can be used to purchase tickets on these trains.
Oyster card - (Off Peak Pay As You Go Fares & Off Peak Price Caps only) - holders of 16/25, Seniors and Disabled Railcards can have their Railcard discount loaded onto their Oyster Card. The discount is only triggered for off-peak travel on the Underground and DLR.
Off peak Travelcard zones 1 to 6 - What at first sight might seem attractive is compromised by discounts being only on zone 1 to 6 Travelcards. Most leisure visitors only need a zone 1 and 2 Travelcard which is about 20% cheaper than a zone 1 to 6 off peak Travelcard diluting much of the Railcard discount.
Anytime Travelcard zones 1 to 6 - You can apply your Railcard discount to anytime Travelcards if you buy it from outside London from the railways together with the railway ticket.
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