Old Person’s Railcard

Idly scrolling through Twitter as I took the train back from Glasgow this afternoon, I saw a promoted tweet pushing ScotRail’s 50 Club, which is currently offering a flat rate £17 ticket to anywhere in Scotland for anyone aged 50 or over. Bloody old people, I thought, they get all the good travel deals, that would be brilliant seeing as it’s going to cost me £78 return to get up to Inverness on Friday.*

And then I realised that I am now, as far as ScotRail is concerned, an Old Person (seasonally adjusted) and for the first time since my Young Person’s Railcard expired when I reached the grand age of 23, I would be eligible for discounted tickets, albeit only in Scotland – not just the limited time £17 offer, but 20% off all rail fares booked online or 10% off tickets bought at the station. Having spent the rest of the journey calculating that, since I had turned 50 in March, I had taken enough rail trips to pay for the card already, I stopped in at the ticket office to find out more.

Obviously, there are hurdles to clear – the first of which is you can only apply online, potentially eliminating some Old Persons from the off, and the second of which is that once you get online to apply, you will spend several baffled minutes going round in circles on the ScotRail website until you realise that first you need a Smart Card before you can add your Old Person’s card to it – I imagine that my browsing history alone would be enough to prove that I was sufficiently Old and befuddled to qualify. Having worked that one out I fell at the third hurdle which was to provide a selfie of sufficient quality to act as a photo id (actually, being far to old to take a decent selfie, where I really failed here was in working out whereabouts I’d stashed the memory stick with the photo I had had taken when I renewed my passport which ticks all the requisite boxes of having plain white background, being in focus, and making you look like an axe murderer). Clearly ScotRail have thought this one through with some care. I may need to find a young person (or at least a photographer) to get past that one.

Once I have defeated the technology and got hold of my card, my battles will not be over, however. Because my planned route to Inverness goes via England (I know, I know) so will not be eligible, and all other routes are flagged up as not being off-peak when you look online, even though they are and hence also not eligible. Fortunately, in Bigtown Station we have a secret weapon, in that some of the ticket office staff consider it a point of pride to sell you the cheapest possible ticket on any given route. The most innocent-sounding request for a ticket can lead to a thoughtful pause, much tapping on the keyboard and jotting down of notes, a few searching questions, and finally a set of multiple tickets that, by routing you through Dundee or making your final destination Paisley Canal rather than Glasgow Central, save you the sum of £5.73. I feel confident that, however hard ScotRail try, the arcana of the Old Person’s Rail Card will prove no match for these ticketing ninjas and I will place myself in their capable hands, even if it means a queue building up of epic proportions while they work it all out. It is for such triumphs that we Old Persons live and breathe.

*Where, among other things, I will be hopefully hanging out with some of the cool cycling women of Inverness (or at least those not quite cool enough to have something better to do on a Friday night)

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11 Responses to Old Person’s Railcard

  1. WOL says:

    In 7 days, I turn 70, which achievement gets me off jury duty in the US. Four days later, I get a new left knee, a belated birthday present. Being 70 may also get me out of having to take my shoes off at the airport security check. Oh, the privileges of age!

  2. stephaniMok says:

    Shame you missed out on some savings re Club 50 railcard. I wouldn’t be without it

  3. ballsofwool says:

    An old person I know solved the photo conundrum by visiting a photo booth and then photographing the photograph.

  4. disgruntled says:

    @WOL – congratulations and I hope the new knee goes well
    @Stephani – I’m sure Suzanne will make sure I get full use out of in the future
    @Balls – the thought had crossed my mind. Timpsons actually do you a printed photo and also put it on a memory stick for you to lose

  5. Chris C says:

    Just don’t do what I did and wear a white jumper when you get your on-a-white-background picture taken. The photo booth produces a picture of your disembodied head floating in spectral fog – somewhat disconcerting for the Scotrail ticket inspectors.

  6. scsmith4 says:

    For the next however-long-it-takes-to-get-my-BSc I qualify as a Proper Student, what with doing more hours per week now than I did when I was at a physical uni, going to lectures and seminars for my BA, so every few years I have to upload a photo to the NUS site to get my student card (cheap cinema tickets and 10% off stationary? Hel-LO!). The site assumes you’ll have lots of selfies on your phone from which to pick; I had to wait until I got home to find a decent one on the laptop to transfer across, as apparently a picture of a Clanger was not suitable.

  7. I’ve had the old-but-not-old-enough-to-be-proper-senior-citizen rail card for a few years now. Another little known aspect of it is that it only applies on Scotrail trains so the single journey that I used to do frequently – Edinburgh to Lockerbie – wasn’t eligible. It is occasionally worth having for the £17ers (which are usually valid on the Lockerbie train) though. It used to also qualify you for free coffee but they ditched that helpful perk.

    • disgruntled says:

      50% off coffee now, although it’s still train coffee … I didn’t realise that about the Edinburgh – Lockerbie train, as that’s one I use a lot – apparently TransPennine Express do a similar card so it might be worth getting one of those too

  8. d9015 says:

    Well I reckon I should set up a service for travel planning on this basis, and ask for patreon/crowd funding to support this.

    Virgin & TPE both offer unsold AP (advance purchase) tickets for online and phone app purchase on the same day. Some fine bargains – as I can often find a single fare to Preston for under £10, with my 33% (60+) railcard.

    Dumfries for me is as fast (& free) on the X74 (carries bikes too – and stops at Park Gate for Ae Forest trails). This coach also does a really late trip back from Glasgow to Dumfries (getting in around 01.30! – so the bike might be handy)

    For the more adventurous, I’ve also discovered an independent operator doing 2 trips/day on a Belfast-Glasgow express coach – for £29 return! Just checking that they can take bikes (including tandems)

    My ‘Entitlement Card’ is with a Council which is part of SPT, so all rail services operated for the SPT area are 50% rather than 66%, so I have to remember which card to use – but the ticket machines don’t have a selection for this…. I also get half price on the Subway, and have enabled my card to hire bikes in Glasgow & Stirling, and all Co-Wheels or Enterprise Car Club cars & vans – with the billing by a monthly direct debit.

    You are however doing exactly the right thing by using your local station to buy tickets. The lare Ian Pragnall (Bespoke Highland Cycling Holidays, based in Glasgow/Arisaig booked all of his rail travel with the staff at Fort William Station, boosting their ticket sales revenue (most journeys being return fares bought in Glasgow or Euston etc) and using their great knowledge of the railway network & fares, with the time available between trains to do the work. Do consider ‘adopting’ a staffed local station like this, to make the case for keeping staff there through the revenue generated.

    Worth also pressing that the Council support for the 100/101 service Dumfries-Edinburgh via Biggar &c adds the requirement that bikes can be carried – we’ve been testing the X62 Edinburgh-Peebles-Glentress-Galashiels-Melrose too. Bikes up to 2 metres will fit BUT the arrangements do have a problem with pannier racks and long mudguards. You can see which buses have bike spaces via the Borders Buses – tracking – on their phone app.

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