Buying a Network Railcard for a pound
One of the benefits of having an Annual Travelcard (or Gold Card) in the South East is that it also acts as a railcard, giving the user a third off off-peak rail fares, and recently tube and DLR fares too (if you’re using Oyster Pay-as-you-go.) If, like me, you do a lot of train travel across the south east, you can save some serious cash.
Indeed in 2009 I kept a record of all my rail journeys and found that 35% of all my train tickets that year, were bought using my Gold Card, at a cost of £84.70. Using the back of my finger calculations, I saved about £40 in that year alone, and that doesn’t take in to account that the Gold Card discount can be extended to three other people travelling with you – an option I certainly used a few times. Whilst I didn’t kept tabs in 2010, I did make more train journeys and am confident I saved a lot more.
Gold Cards have one drawback though. Eventually they expire, and you have to buy a new one. This is fine normally, however this year I’m being made redundant and planning to take the summer off. My travelcard expires on 15 April, and it would be madness to buy another one straight away.
Yet my summer off is precisely the time that I’m likely to be galavanting around on the train. Oh the irony.
Thankfully, there is a partial solution. For, unbeknowst to many, the humble Gold Card has various other benefits, and one of them is the ability to buy a Network Railcard for a mere £1.
Like the Gold Card, the Network Railcard gives you a third off rail fares in the south east. Like the Gold Card, it can be used to give that discount to three other adults travelling with you.
However the Network Railcard has a sting in its tail. See, for someone reason, the train companies of the South East don’t seem to like it. Rather than seeing it as a way to help get more people on their trains, it’s seen as a nuisance. It’s barely promoted, and saddled with restrictions. For starters, it’s only valid after 10am, Monday to Friday, unlike other railcards and the Gold Card which kick in at 9:30am. But far more noticeable is the weekday minimum fare of £13.
Still, at weekend, the restrictions disappear and given the low cost, making just one journey would save money.
So armed with a pound coin, an application form and a free lunchbreak, I headed out of work and down to my nearest railway station – Shepherd’s Bush, operated by London Overground.
Technically the offer is for the Gold Card owner to be able to buy Network Railcard for a friend of relative, so on the trip down there I concocted a story about buying it for my father, whom I’d renamed “Andrew Bowden” for such purposes. Then I realised that my Gold Card didn’t have my name on it, and as no photographic evidence was required either, the whole convaluted tale would be completely unnecessary.
The man at the ticket office looked rather confused at my request, however his computer screen was visible to me and I just happened to know that the technical term for the ticket is the catchily named “Network Railcard Parner Card”, which was on his system.
Having apologised to me as he’d never issued one before, he made a swift phone call to someone to find out what he needed to do, before photocopying my soon-to-expire Gold Card, and handing me my new, shinny Network Railcard.
Quite how much use it will be, remains to be seen. Certainly it won’t save me as much as my Gold Card did, but to spend a quid to save a few pounds more, well it’s got to be worth a punt.
So now the only question is, where should I go?